Title: The Cycle of Life
The day began abruptly at 7 A.M. as my mother called me and told me, "Dominic! you better be awake, we are leaving in twenty minutes!" My family was visiting from Northern California, and staying at a nearby hotel--I was obviously not awake, but had to get ready.
I slept the entire way there, and to be honest, I didn't even know where we were going, I was too tired from the night before.
As we arrived at the beach I didn't know what to expect. Off in the distance I saw the beach, but I didn't look like any beach I had ever seen. It was covered in something, something that I was unfamiliar with, but the distance was too great to tell. As we got closer, I realized that I had been looking at elephant seals, thousands of them, grouped together, on a single beach. I was immediately worried about the smell until I realized that nothing smelled foul. Quite the contrary, the air was pleasant, the wind must have been in our favor. We were observing the seals from a wooden ledge above.
My initial amazement was rooted in the pure numbers of seals; more than I had ever seen before. Immediately after I got over the extreme numbers of them, I realized how large they were. The males alone had to weight over one thousand pounds, and although the pregnant females appeared smaller, they too must have weighted just below eight hundred pounds if not more. Just as I wondering how they would move around, I saw a male sprint from the ocean to the middle of the beach. He rocked back an fourth as though he were a rocking chair, but moved at an exhilarating speed.
The females that had not yet given birth didn't move at all, they were completely neutral to their surrounding, and didn't seem to even be alive if it were not for the movement of their stomachs. The females that had already given birth were very protective of their offspring. Apparently, as I learned from a nature specialist, mothers will steal each other's children if they are infertile or have lost a child themselves. I was fortunate enough to experience the live birth of a baby elephant seal; the entire process took just under one half hour. It was both dusting and amazing. I can't entirely say that I was mentally prepared to witness such an event, it was too powerful for my eyes, and made me sick to my stomach for a shot period of time. It was too much beauty, and too much reality for me.
Just as the birth ended, a group of male elephant seals aligned themselves along the shore and began their mating calls. To do this, they tuck the long portion of their face (the part that looks like an elephant trunk--hence where their name is from) in their mouth, and make a sound that does not seem to belong to nature; it is almost alien, with brief pauses. As the females make their way back toward the ocean, the males mount them and proceed to fertilize them. Sometimes the males fight over the females, charging towards each other. The smaller males run into the ocean to avoid the more aggressive and mature males. The entire process is simply a rush.
As we got back in the car to drive back, there was much to talk about.
Dana Doolin 1/9/2006
Horse Canyon Loop
It was so amazing to see the pregnant mares after reading Virgil's words about them. He speaks truth—it is important to give them rest and care. The mares we saw were all together in a pen, surrounded by the beautiful San Luis Obispo landscape. They have many students looking after them, and it is obvious that they are well cared for. Like a human mother, the mares we saw exuded gentleness and a "glow." We also learned much about the breeding process/procedures used by the Equestrian Unit at Cal Poly, and how important it is to the horse industry as a whole. There is an interesting irony brought up by both Virgil and my own observations from our hike today: there is both incredible power and immeasurable gentle beauty in fertility and the reproductive cycle. It is the force that creates life, and yet, is natural and peaceful. The mares we saw today were possessed with this maternal serenity, and it was a joy to be a part of.
To care of sire the mother's care succeeds.
When great with young they wander night their time,
Let no man suffer them to drag the yoke
In heavy wains, nor leap across the way,
Nor scour the meads, nor swim the rushing flood.
In lonely lawns they feed them, by the course
Of brimming streams, where moss is, and the banks
With grass are greenest, where are sheltering caves,
And far outstretched the rock-flung shadow lies.
Have I ever mentioned that I walk to and from school everyday? The walk is approximately 20-25 minutes, depending on traffic. I enjoy it because it gives me a chance to prepare myself mentally for the day. It is very quiet when I begin the walk at 7:30am (to catch an 8:00am class), and it is extremely refreshing to get some "alone time" to collect my thoughts. Anyway, this morning was an unusual one. It was the first rain we have gotten this quarter (though the sky has threatened before), and it was my first long walk in the rain. Though I was dreading it when I left my warm house, I soon discovered that the walk was almost more peaceful that usual.
There was the soft pitter-pattering of the rain bouncing off my umbrella and the smell of the damp asphalt rising from the ground. The rain meant that most of the other students I see walking drove to school this morning, so there were less people, and thus, less noise. I had some fantastic "inner dialogue," as I call it, and was incredibly refreshed by sorting through my thoughts. The silence allowed me to be more focused than usual. Honestly, I loved every part of my walk this morning. In fact, I even enjoyed tip-toeing around all the puddles—I realized when I saw others doing the same thing, how ridiculous I must look. The misty air clung to my face and jacket, and the soft sprinkle left the bottom four inches of my jeans completely soaked when it was all over. I have always loved listening to and watching the rain from indoor comforts, but I realized today the awesome and magical element of walking in it.
1/24/06 Behind Cerro Vista
It's nice that a place like this exists so close to where I live. Although, it would be nicer if I were not a stone's throw from the Cerro Vista parking lot. I am sitting on a hill--the foot of a hill really--that extends behind the Cerro Vista apartments, where I live. On my right is Cerro Vista itself, all orange and red and beige, autumn colors almost, although what it most reminds me of is sandstone. And on my left is a small piece of wilderness. A number of low plants that look suspiciously like poison oak, a large tree with long, thin green leaves waving slightly in the breeze, a gully where rainwater flows to the bottom of the hill, where there may be a tiny pond, though if so, I cannot see it from here. It is very silent here, with only sounds of birds and rustling leaves, and a distant rumble that comes from campus, possibly from cars on Perimeter, though maybe not. I would have liked to go further away from the parking lot and campus in general, but there is a barbed wire fence and, as I mentioned previously, what may be poison oak. I could easily jump the fence, but I imagine that would be illegal. It's like we discussed in class yesterday, and how Thoreau discussed in Economy, how there are fences everywhere, boxing off paradise for a select few.
It is very relaxing to just sit here on the grass, listening to the various bird calls, both high and low, and looking around at the many types of plants, none of which I can name. It's not often that I can do this, and it is made all the nicer by knowing that when I leave, I will be going to do homework for the next hour or two. That kind of knowledge helps me savor the moment, much like the opposite does, knowing that I have nothing to do and can sit here all day.
It saddens me to see litter nearby: an empty bottle. I guess others were up here, but did they notice the beauty of it all and just sit here, taking it all in? Or were they just looking for a quiet place to drink, away from prying eyes? I'll take the bottle with me when I leave. It would be nice if it was the last, but I know it won't be. It's sad how easily people litter, how easily they can just leave garbage on the ground and walk away.
The bugs seem to get used to people very quickly, landing on me and buzzing against my skin. I wonder, if I sat here all day, would the birds grow used to me as well and come nearer rather than sit on the trees? Or am I too alien, too strange in this environment? I wonder if they ever got used to Thoreau at Walden.
path less traveled
The journey continues into Poly Cannon. As I walked, my eyes were open; it felt good to be present in my surroundings. To see little blossoms on the trees as I passed. To feel the bark of the eucalyptus soaring high in the sky.
As I continued, my eyes were drawn to a set of log steps going down toward a flowing stream. I decided to enter the path less traveled. As I descended, the water got louder and louder. To cross the stream, I had to use stepping stones; this is where my adventure began. It's fascinating how nature brings my mind to childhood in so many ways. It was the biggest thrill to hop from one stone to another. I felt brave.
I made it safe across the "raging rapids" and continued on my way. I continued along the path as it ascending toward the sun. As I climbed, my path became narrower and narrower. I ducked under a branch in attempts to continue, but it had different motives. It clawed and grabbed my backpack with no intentions of releasing. I charged with all my might, and sure enough I broke from it's grasp. Freedom. But not for long. I continued and all around were green spear like sprouts growing in clumps with black tips at the end as sharp as needles. I initially was able to dodge these plants, but I continued and they began to overtake my path. I could not avoid them, so I decided to trudge through. They gave me no mercy. Some pierced me good, one on my arm, one on my leg, but never on my feet. I felt like the plants were asking me not to continue, like they were protecting a treasure from people like me who wanted to explore and see things few eyes had seen, but I was not a good listener.
I was amazed at all the trails around me as they weaved in and out almost as if I was in a maze, but what was the final destination? If I got off path, there was another path not too far up the hill. I continued to walk, not sure where I was going or what I was in search for. But I was ready for wherever my feet decided to go.
My eyes focused on a bend far off in the distance. As I continued to weave back and forth along the narrow dirt path, dodging trees and trying not to slip down the hill, I finally reached the point beyond the bent. To my left a huge rock formation was displayed. I looked at it for a while and a face appeared almost as if it was watching me, waiting for me to see it's beauty. To my right a steep cliff plummeted into foliage below. I found a flat rock to sit on, and I pondered.
I finally decided to climb. The desire has been raging inside for a year at least. The love began at my grandparent's cabin on Lake Silvia, MN. Outside their small cabin, a huge pine tree grew outfront. I would often hide up there when I wanted to get away from the world around me. "Where's Ruth? Check in the tree." I remember one day climbing to the very top which gave me an incomparable view of my most favorite body of water. This love continues as I age. I was able to travel to Nigeria when I was 18 where I spent a month with a group of orphan boys living together in a place called the Transition House. There were ripe mangos growing all around the premises, so I could not resist but climb and eat. Elijah was my companion; he would call me monkey girl which made me laugh.
Today was the day to reconnect with my roots. I was walking down Poly Cannon Road in search of an adventure. I came across this lone ranger of a tree. It's bark was somewhat smooth; the trunk diverged up about 6 1/2 feet which was just high enough to give me a bit of a challenge to climb. My skills were a bit rusty, and as people were passing by on their afternoon jog, they saw me attempting to climb this humble tree. I took off my shoes in hopes that my bare paws would have better traction than my Berkinstocks. Soon, a jogger stopped and asked me if I would like a boost. She was laughing, which made me think my silly adventure was somehow bringing her joy. I accepted her offer with much appreciation and made my way up up and away. She handed me my shoes to protect my feet on the decent.
I would have thought climbing would be easier as I age due to my lengthened limbs, that wasn't the case. All that aside, I made it for the first time in a long time. I sat there for a few moments running through memories, then I looked out. "I feel like Thoreau" I thought to myself. He climbed trees and discovered things he would have never seen without climbing high.
"For I discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seen before, --so much more of the earth and the heavens. I might have walked about the foot of the tree for three score years and ten, and yet I certainly should never have seen them."
I don't believe I discovered new mountains, but I did discover a twig forked between the branch I was sitting on. It was dangling in the air which fascinated me because it had to have fallen in an ever so specific way to have hung the way it did. It was there for my eyes only.
The bark of this sycamore was new to my eyes. It felt like a scaley layer of a rough over a smooth base. Its variety of colors fascinated me. When I looked from afar, the bark reminded me of an impressionist painting because of it's distinct chunks of colors appearing to lack detail, but as I got closer, intricate patters and different shades of grey covered it's surface.
Being in the air reminded me that being a kid is such a freeing time. Yes, I was immature and wore big glasses, but to unabashedly climb trees as a frequent activity seems so liberating. So much is making sense all of the sudden. My favorite books were Berenstain Bears, I've always dreamed of living in a tree house, I loved the movie Swiss Family Robinson, and I love climbing trees. There's something magical up here. I was made to breath this air.
I need to get up more often.
January 7, 2006
It looks so unnatural. The tree's branches are woven into the telephone line wires. The leaves dance in the wind. Moving back and forth as the sun shines through. The wind picks up and the branches are violently rocked from side to side. I almost feel bad for the tree, but then in an instant the wind dies. The tree stands still. The sun is hidden behind the clouds now and it makes it even more apparent that the telephone wire cuts across the tree's branches. It's a quiet day today and I hear just the rustling of the leaves and the distant sound of a plane overhead. Can one ever get completely away from technology and the busy city? I think not. A little bird flies down and lands on a branch, but only for a moment. It gives a short chirp and is gone. From my view it looks as if the trees go on forever. All I see are green and yellow leaves that go on for miles. And yet, the telephone wire still stands tall and cuts across my view. I try to imagine it's not there. Just then a bird lands on top of the pole and I then understand that the pole is now a part of the nature and landscape. The landscape--forever changed by the inventions of human kind.
January 25, 2006
A dead fish washes up on the sand. I look at it in disgust, like it's the fish's fault for floating up on the shore next to my foot. The water slowly rises and falls and then crashes in a little ripple. The loudest sound is heard when the water hits the side of the boat. The sun is shining brightly and the reflection off the water is blinding. I see algae and seaweed in the water--all green and brown. Little weeds are starting to sprout up by the water which is a few yards away from the thriving grass and pine trees. I wonder what it must be like to spend all your waking hours sitting and looking out at this lake. It must be peaceful. The rocks blend in with the sand. It is a mix of many colors and together it looks complete. The rocks in the water are smooth and slimy; they seem much different than the dry ones. Almost like another species. The wind starts to pick up and I feel it's time to go back to my cabin. I get up and as I walk home I wonder what it must be like to reside so close to the lake.
Adel Under Indian Summer 1/5/06
The colors are richer here. The wind blows harder and the days are colder, but the grass is taller and the sky more beautiful. I never get sick, not here. A bob-tailed cow slipped on the iced-over canal breaking her right forelock, so we put her down and sold her calf in Great Falls; a ewe was bitten in the face by a rattlesnake.
But did you see the sun this morning? The frost-jacketed timothy and brome grass held is up in flashes, while the kill deer distracted the badger with its pretend broken wing. Last night the elk came bugling down to the hay meadows, their eyes big and dark and deep like water, pushing their song from their lungs to my ears. I wished I could be with them, on my clean bed in my geometric room, as both our blood is red.
New Residence Hall Building Site 1/9/06
Take a picture of it. It's dying.
Hear my cry: I think it is fair to say most people in our modern society have little to no sense of where the food they eat comes from, that is, the grocery store. The horrible side-effect to this mindset is the sudden unimportance of agriculture. We are suffocating, raping, and starving ourselves and our grandchildren. This seems to be the good idea: pave over impeccably productive farmland for houses and shopping malls; push the farmers and ranchers into areas of lesser soil quality and rainfall, then multiply and demand more food from our humble farmers and ranchers so that we can fuel our insatiable growth.
This cannot be real.
Soon we will have to import most of our food supply, making us susceptible and dependable on other countries welfare and weather. Then, most likely, these countries will experience the same process as us, producing lesser and lesser amounts of food.
Then where are we?
-- Cooper Hibbard
Even at my young age it is rare to see something altogether new. This high above campus the view is dominated by the trees and the rooftops. I can?t even see Dexter lawn, the UU, or either perimeter road. In many ways this compliments the view. The expansive sports fields are another dominating characteristic of the landscape. Ca Poly is just so big. Comparing to the town the city looks miniature.
I never realized how boring this landscape would be without this ridgeline and the surrounding peaks of the Seven Sisters. From here the PAC even looks pretty good, especially compared to its blocky look from the ground floor.
The weather here at San Luis Obispo is truly excellent.
There is a hawk gliding several hundred feet above campus. It is sharply outlined with the sun and makes a hard contrast with the hazy background of the city.
I love the winter colors because everything is in tones of bright green rather than the usual California ?gold.? Short little stems of grasses poke through everywhere below the taller, older stalks. It has an effect of mixing the colors in a manner which is nearly impossible to duplicate through any artificial means. Having a brief couple of years painting when I was younger I can appreciate the difficulty in capturing these particular views. It is curious how the solid colors of the buildings make them much easier to draw than this simple and textually complex landscape.
Right now there are many sparrows which appear to live in the taller grasses. I will remember this place and plan to make more frequent use of it in the future, perhaps in the morning next time.
Distracted, I walk to class dodging apprehensive students and straining to hear the sound of the bells marking the hour. Papers, tests, quizzes, bills and assigned readings all clutter my head when suddenly, a flutter of orange dances before my eyes. Carefree. Light. Airy. A smile breaks upon my anxious face and I breathe deeply. Relaxing. This delicate being, seemingly from another world, has enriched mine. As I gratefully follow its trail, it flies away to find another somber face to brighten with a butterfly kiss and smile!
Sometimes it seems the sun is so much brighter here. Looking up into the sky on
clear days, I could swear the combustion of the sun is more intense than
anywhere else I've seen it. White as a hot iron, or an electrical spark,
almost no hint of yellow typically associated with the star; and it BURNS to
look at it. No way to get used to it. It's not that the temperature is hot,
no, in fact it's much milder here than back home. It's just the sun seems to
burn with so much more vigor. Back home it's bright too, but so much duller.
The white isn't as intense; the burning retinas still exist, but it's at least
bearable. Not like here.
I mention this about the sun, because somehow it makes everything surreal in
this place. The light it casts on the sea, and the rocks, and the hills is
almost dreamlike. As if it were TOO real. When the sky is clear, no sign of
haze or fog, looking at the hills is like looking at a perfect painting. Not a
picture, it's much too real to be a photograph. A painting, more real than
reality itself. Like the sky had turned to crystal, carrying the light
directly from the mountain into your cornea, no refraction, no scattering. The
sun seems to make the sky itself a vacuum, so that not even the particles of
air, the molecules of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, can interfere with the
The wind rustles through my hair with a near violent hint, as if a washout from what should be the middle of a cold winter in many places. My papers shift and have to be held down. The leaves bend and never quite rest the same way again. Vergil described a storm that both ravages and cleanses the land in one sweep. This milder yet sensational wind seems to have a similar effect as I let it pass through me. It takes some of my worries with it and renews me for a new stage in my life... These past quarters at Cal Poly have been a wonderful experience, but I have been looking forward to the start of a new kind of thinking. I have always enjoyed hiking in nature, but haven't taken the time off during school to fully appreciate what was around me in San Luis Obispo. I have great aspirations for this class and am glad that we are encouraged to keep a journal. It is not something I've done before and I wait to see how it will turn out.
The weekend before school started, my neighbor, Rob, drove me down to San Luis Obispo for the start of winter quarter... The weather was amazing. When we drove around the bend to see the beach for the first time we saw the most incredible view. The sun was shinning through a thin break in the clouds so that a beam of it just kissed the furthest reaches of the ocean. Neither of us had seen anything like it. I was honestly taken back with its beauty. This was before this class had even started, and I wasn't looking for anything particularly exciting out in nature.
We pulled over to watch for a while... I think it was even more interesting to watch his reaction. I'm not one used to being inspired by other's reactions to nature, but I couldn't help being drawn into Rob's child-like thrill of this sunset... He rolled up his pants and joined me in running down to the water... It really was fascinating to watch him, a man I had so recently seen as the stern, middle-aged, tough construction worker from next door, running through the freezing water getting his pants wet yet savoring it like he had never tasted anything so wonderful... It was an amazing beginning for the new year.
Strolling along the sandy lines of Pismo beach, I moved farther away from the unctuously rolling scents of Pomeroy Boulevard, I made my way further to where the waves crash with their timeless rhythm among rocks the have borne their assault since long before man had the eyes to see it. Here, among the gulls and the snowy plovers, among the uprooted kelp and sand dollars, this is where I found myself. Behind me lay rows of splendid homes, with windows wide to catch the fragrant air of this sea vista. But I, my back to these square and ovoid constructions, realized myself now as part of that very sea vista. At my feet were small rocks of commingling minerals and the back plate of some miniscule chelicerate, picked no doubt from its sandy home by the needle-like beak of another beach inhabitant. Beyond my feet, the ocean cast a sheen of water upon the sand, making a glimmering dance floor, capricious in its form but always returning from whence it came. Still beyond, the white lines of wave crests stacked up, each waiting their turn to end their thousand-mile journeys upon this peaceful coast. Whether I'm here or not, all these things will continue, and when I fade, they continue still.
Journal 5 - A Windy Vista
See Canyon 1-15-06
Today I sat on a windy vista high above San Luis. The sun rested comfortably in the clear, blue sky, shining warm, even as the wind's icy fingers stole what little heat I had. I follow the wind backwards with my eyes, looking first over town and then to Bishop's Peak and Cerro Romauldo and all the way to the ocean's water lapping at Morro Rock as if it were some frosted lump of sugar candy. Looking ahead, there are hills folded on hills and valleys opening to rolling plains, all layered in gentle tones of green and the earth's ruddy brown. It had the pillowy nature of some long loved quilt, passed down from old to young, each time weathering the toils of love and much use. That rugged line that the train tracks drew in their meandering path over the hills seemed as a thread frayed out from this generational work. With great reluctance, I turn to find the warm confines of my car, thinking deeply once again and descending to that warm quilt.
**This is an entry I wrote in time I had allotted for two or three. But I'm extremely proud of the product and I'd rather have too few entries and something to show my kids... than the opposite of that. Of course I'd prefer to have enough. Hopefully the spacing and line breaks aren't weird in Hotmail; if they are, let me know and I can send you these in a different form.**
We had room for only five people in our car, but there were six of us. My friends had assured me that sitting back in the storage area of the GMC Yukon would not be terrible. And actually, they were right. I could lie down or use the luggage to prop myself up, and I had plenty of snacks and drinks. I faced backward; that was one of the singularities of this trip for me. On no other road trip did I have a view such as I had that day where land features marched slowly, slowly toward a point on the horizon just above the road where we had been fifteen minutes ago. Everything, everything contracting.
We were Las Vegas bound.
Coming east from Arroyo Grande, in the first half hour of our trip, I made an observation. The raw ore collected by my eyes melted under the fire of my consciousness and bore its liquid treasure. My mind's crevasses provided a more-than-ample mold for my ingot. And polishing and shaping, my scrutiny yielded me the finished product. Born of mountains and trees, manufactured and assimilated by my own mind, my observation stirred me.
The desert started as the moist sea breezes no longer reached the sandy peaks' mazes. We drove beside a ridge, parallel with it and in its shadow. The top of the ridge looked barren, and even craggy, as we went along it. Few trees interrupted. One silhouetted itself against the sky; it was wide and had huge, bare branches that reached up and toward me and away and out and up and toward me again.
It looked like a fracture, like when a crystal is hit sharply at one point and does not break. A misalignment of the atoms; something the same and something changed. The crystal has the same size and shape, and the material in the both solid body and the fissure is the same. But a misalignment has occurred, and now a certain structure within the crystal is visible. A structure of broken bonds, a structure of shock and heat and reverberation -- a structure that speaks of the true nature of the crystal.
The tree was like this.
And I realized it was true. Trees are made of air and water, just like our atmosphere. A Frenchman did an experiment one time where he poured a carefully-measured amount of dirt into a pot and raised a tree for years. He removed all the fallen leaves. When the Frenchman finally transplanted the tree, he weighed the dirt again and found it was exactly the same as before. I'm not sure if he actually was French, but I was struck that way when I learned about him. That or something similarly neoclassical; I don't know
lots of curious, funny-dressed people.
The air is our affected crystal. I thought this as I sat back, observing, waiting to gamble and drink. Leaves and sugars and fibers, though denser, are the same stuff as what's around them. Out of the ground springs what shocks and distorts Nature: it is Life. And we are better for that distortion, and I sat and we traveled through the shattered fluid.
The Cal Poly Hike
**This stems from the things I learned about horses that day, and how they struck me. Also, if you've read Stranger in a Strange Land you might recognize where some of these thoughts come from.**
What a system we have
Providing and protecting and sheltering
Like we do ourselves.
It's science! And it makes our lives and theirs
Though they didn't ask.
But I'll show you some charts.
They're really better off,
I asked the horse, "do you like being teased?
"do you like the plastic thing?
"how is it when your girls show up
"and then go away
"before you can start something?"
Mr. Horse replied, "No sir, I don't like it."
I said, "Don't worry, our girls are like that too."
We know there's something we didn't get quite right there.
So we let them out into the field for a few hours every day.
Or whenever it suits us.
And tomorrow the Trimaxions will take me aboard their ship
Take me to a colony.
There'll be girls there
I'm too set in my ways.
But a few generations from now
My kids will be awesome.
Bending things with their minds,
And living to be 300.
We'll visit the Wild Humans from time to time.
We'll watch them cure diseases
and make money
and blow each other up
and send space probes to Pluto.
And we've got our samples
In our own little paradise.
We have samples of plants we've brought on ships
And brought here.
Make our little samples of the homeworlds.
Make our gardens.
And we raise horses.
And they all have the same birthday.
And we'll all have the same birthday.
It's a bit of paradise
A bit of control.
Okay, a lot of control.
There'll be more