Thursday, January 17, 2013

Borderlands



Notes from today’s WALK…

The WALK takes me to a natural place. 

Or does it? 

Our house is 10 minutes from a State Park, a National Recreation Area, and a Land Trust. It is also 10 minutes from San Francisco. Our house has electricity, heat, and a modified bitumen roof. It is also half a mile from a redwood grove. I live a liminal existence, traversing the borderlands between grime and grace, civilization and survivalism. 

Or perhaps I’m overstating this. 

On recent WALKs, I have encountered, in some particular order, coyotes, a bobcat, snakes, foxes, rabbits, red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, deer, dead deer, and turkey vultures. The trail goes through a primordial forest of bay tree, live oaks, redwoods, ferns, and huckleberries before breaking into the windswept chaparral of manzanita, scrub oak, coyote brush, sage, toyon, lupine, and sticky monkey.

Along the same path today I also saw a matchbox car, sunglasses, and a rusted out VW. And when I arrived at the top of Homestead Hill, I saw an expanse of pacific blue to the west and the smog of Chevron smokestacks to the east. 
 
The WALK takes me to a threshold place (in more ways than one, on a good day). But it also makes me doubt the purity of this place and its purpose. 

An old dear friend, the redheaded urban planner, derides the space where the WALK takes place. Not the specific trail, mind you, but spaces like it. He shines his lovably self-righteous light on the fallacy of so many of our supposed natural places. To him, there is pure nature and pure city, and everything in between is a subdivision of self-delusion. Because the in-betweens are impure; they are not what we say they are. Muir Woods is an ancient forest with a parking lot. Mt. Tam is a State Park with an air force base on top. 

Today I am afraid the redheaded urban planner is right. Can I be at one with nature when I can hear Highway 101? Am I close to the earth when I see it dotted with blue New York Times bags filled with dog shit? Today I see the uneven stitches on the story I've so carefully woven.

Most days, though, I forgive myself. Most of us land in the liminal spaces. Most of us live in the in-betweens. I’m doing the best I can, just like everybody else. Are we to blame if the border has become so wide that it now makes up most of the map. Yes. We probably are. And that’s the part that’s harder to forgive.


 

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