Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fire Mountain

As we approached the coast, the tone in our voices amplified the excitement for my daughter and I. My son absorbed the foreign landscape with interest growing towards awe, his camera shutter clicking rhythmically.

Rounding the bend, I recognized the spot a half second before actually seeing the ocean for the first time, an exclamation of joy leaping from me, echoed by my son. My daughter, who had just been here two weeks ago, was no less excited, having yearned so long to be here with her Daddy once more and to share with her brother the place she calls home.

Like crossing a border, we celebrated at the end of the bridge when we were truly on the Mountain, and the two of us silently, smilingly enjoyed his gasp at sight of the Punchbowl and the vast Pacific expanding ever outwards, and at the long, long coastline stretching south. We stopped at the best look-out to peer over the edge 600 feet straight down into the calm, inviolable roar of ocean against rocks.

After all this time, I had no hesitation to make a quick stop at my old home, now remodeled nearly beyond recognition; in fact, wanted to get that visit quickly out of the way. The interior, now a second home, held no magic and few memories for me, so little of the shrine still preserved, its rustic charm covered over by sheetrock and elegant trim.

Off to the side, the little T-house, a 10 x 10 studio that I had remodeled, besides being emptied of its sparse furnishings, looked and smelled like the day I had left it. Although my first marriage began in that space, its lure for me was the hours I had spent alone there in writing and contemplation, at first as a Kerouacian troubadour adventuring, and later as a young father capturing the essence of joy and longing on page after pages that were eventually burned at start of the second marriage.

My sister’s home has settled into the Mountain in a way that is so sacred and soft, the vision of her architect husband, and so representative of the spirit they have absorbed. The acre of land with paths weaving and shrines sprinkled, hot tub and separate small spaces is a paradise for contemplation and celebration, magnificent on its cliff ledge and humble in its size and aspect.

Because we first lived here together, built it stick by stick by hand, suffered the fire, tore it down to build it back up again, birthed and raised children as next door neighbors (across a treacherous ravine), we share a remarkable bond between us. They were so pleased to walk behind us on the paths as I discovered the changes and talked about the past to my son, who was not only seeing the evidence first hand, but hearing much of the lore for the very first time.

Out of necessity, to keep peace in the family, most of this part of my life was not talked about with my Vermont children. As the week has progressed, my son has met many strangers to him who had once been good friends to me, and in the process discovered a father who was much freer, open and exuberant than the one he has known prior to this long year of change.

After brief trips into the little town of Manzanita at the bottom of the mountain and walks along the beach, I find I am most interested in retreat and renewal on the property. Along each path through thick tangles of new growth spring greenery, there are places to pause, rock seats to ponder the magnitude of earth and spirit. So beautifully designed, the house at night offers a forest of stars gleaming beyond skylights, and always there is the sight and roar of the perpetual ocean.

In all these years away, my dreams have regularly been supported by whales, the leviathans visiting me in my sleep and wistful daylight musings to remind me of a deep calm and connection that was always available. As I shed the skins of my fear and unhappiness, I looked forward to the sight of their spouts in reality, choosing this season as the most likely to ensure visible confirmation of their presence.

Yesterday in particular, we took machetes and cleared a long abandoned path to the campsite where I slept the first months on this mountain. Hands bloodied from the cuts and swipes, breath sweaty, ripe with the sweet smell of the slashed vines, we paused constantly to gaze out over the water. On the tiny ledge itself, I squatted where I had once slept, absorbing the memory of that young man who awoke each morning to journal his dreams and drifted under stars at night, who played music at the fire pit and crafted a home out of pluck and determination, and mostly the thoughtful design of his newly met brother-in-law. Squatting there now with my son, I was moved to consider how much water had crashed on those rocks below, how much had changed and how little, and how much was so much better than I had ever imagined.

As if the Universe wants to remind me once again how much is beyond our control, no amount of vigilance has revealed the tell-tale spouts and rolling flukes I remembered seeing so regularly. Having promised so much to my son, my flawed humanity is once again so humbly visible, the attainment of my desire just beyond my reach, while a wealth of experience is gained with every step.
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Anonymous said...

Beautiful Kip

Laurie said...

I find that I am most drawn to know a person who allows his flaws to be visiable. To project perfection is to pretend we aren't human. You're son might not see whales but see a different miracle. Maybe he'll see a part of his dad he never knew was there. What a treat!