Saturday, April 3, 2010

Surrounded by Fools...

     It was supposed to be three days and two nights of rain, rain, and more rain, but I had not anticipated the magic that April Fool's Day would bring! When reserving the Hummingbird Cottage at Bear Valley Bed and Breakfast, in Olema, near Point Reyes National Seashore, several weeks ago, I had envisioned beautiful spring weather. I imagined walking in the warming sunshine on beaches and through fields of wildflowers while watching birds flit about. However, as Easter week and my personal escape plans drew near, the weather forecast was not cooperating, calling for a week of storm fronts, dark clouds, and nonstop rain. Unabashed, I packed books and my laptop, knowing I would be very satisfied to curl up with a blanket and hot tea, while reading and writing to my heart's content.
     Well, it was not to be! I was awakened on April 1 by sunshine beaming through the cottage's many windows imploring me to get up and get out and go exploring! Quickly, I did just that!
     Happy day! Feeling a bit Alice-in-Wonderland-ish, it seemed everywhere I looked foolish things were going on! Not wanting to be left out of the delightful nonsense, I convinced myself (not a difficult task) to jump right into the tomfoolery...

     Three-hundred-and-eight steps down and three-hundred-and-eight steps back up. Down is a lark; up is an invigorating aerobic challenge. The Point Reyes lighthouse sits near the base of la Punta de los Reyes, the Point of the Kings, a befittingly regal name for this stunning geological formation, which reaches well out into el Oceano Pacifico, the peaceful ocean. The lighthouse is approached from the cliff above by navigating a long, long, long, narrow flight of concrete steps (a bit like descending through Alice's rabbit hole, though the view is significantly more majestic). The wind roars, the waves crash, the white-capped, far-from-peaceful green water is streaked with stripes of foam.

     Pods of California gray whales make their spring migration northward toward their Alaskan feeding grounds. Hugging the coastline, they pass just below the Point Reyes lighthouse, where scores of bundled human observers, hair whipping in the wild wind and armed with binoculars, squint into the sun to spot the whales as they come to the surface to wave hello!

     Three midnight-black ravens play in the brisk, on-shore wind, beside the one-lane road taking me inland. As I stop to watch their aerial gymnastics, they morph into missiles shooting across the sky, wings tucked back, moving with the speed of the wind. Then turning-on-a-dime, in beautiful synchrony, the ravens face into the wind, wings spread and arched like three pairs of spinnaker sails, they surf waves of air that rise and crest above the headlands, hovering, slipping left, sliding right, a trio of black-paper kites without strings.

     Down at the lagoon, hundreds of fat and happy elephant seals, mamas with their babies, lie basking in the sun in the lee of the cliffs, out of the wind's reach. Singing their spring songs, their voices range from bloodhound hunting calls to the hoarse barking of dogs with laryngitis and the high-speed rat-a-tat of woodpeckers hard at work. The nearly inert colony's chorus rises from what appears to be a large collection of weathered driftwood logs thrown up onto the sand.

     Wild irises wiggle and dance along the trail's edge, as the wind whips along the rolling green hills that slide across the headlands. There are many wildflowers that take part in the day's dance, pink, yellow, orange, blue, and white, but it is the deep violet irises, trying vainly to stand tall and proud in the face of this constant breeze, that attract my attention. I attempt, also in vain, to catch an iris portrait, but none of them will stop jitterbugging long enough to pose.

     At precisely 5pm, hundreds of happy California cows, udders filled like giant water balloons, prick up their ears, sniff the air, and turn as one, like a school of ungainly fish, lining up single-file and to parade in their slow lumbering waddle towards some unseen destination. These "happy cows," and many more, make their homes at historic Ranches A through G which sit picturesquely within the park's boundaries doing their dairy business much as it has been done for a century-and-a-half.

     Hawks, kites, and kestrels, sit on fence posts and telephone poles. Normally serious and fierce in appearance as they scan the open green fields for prey, this evening they appear nearly comical. They look frazzled and wind-whipped, their feathers sticking up at odd angles. If only these normally distinguished-looking raptors had fingers and external ears, then they could tuck those wild feathers behind their ears to keep them out of their eyes, or slick them back with maximum-hold hair gel.

     Having had enough of the cold, blustery wind, I park in a small lot facing the lagoon, in the lee of the cliffs. Enjoying the scene, made more tranquil by the warm interior of the car, I am greeted by the parking lot's reigning ruler and self-appointed greeter, a studly seagull who hovers over my windshield, then slowly settles down directly onto the front of my van. By way of "hello," he pecks at my driver's side windshield, throws his head back, and lets out a series of "ack-ack" calls, perhaps taking possession of this new high-ground. We eye one another from just inches away and chat amiably through my open side window.

     Heading back to the sanctuary of the B-and-B, I see far to the west, the low cloud bank, hovering just above the distant horizon, that previews tomorrow's storm. The sun, still an inch or two above sinking into the ocean, is dipping behind the clouds, creating a pre-sunset pseudo-sunset, coloring the western sky pink and lavender, silver and turquoise, while sending golden "god's rays" streaking to earth.

     Waving whales, surfing ravens, singing elephant seals, dancing irises, schooling cows, disheveled raptors, a chatty seagull, and a sunset in broad daylight... followed by a hot cup of tea in the Hummingbird Cottage... The only things missing are a grinning cat and a top hat! There's an April-Fools, Griffin-in-Wonderland-or-Kings'-Point nonsense poem in there somewhere... perhaps if the Mad Hatter were here he could recite it for me!

     Dear Friend Meghan just sent me the following Tarot description of "The Fool." I just had to go back and add it in here as it's quite an inspiring look at the classic character of "The Fool," not so much foolish as creative... like he's a blank canvas together with a palate full of paints! Thank you, Meghan! What a pair of Fools we are!
     Basic Tarot Meaning: At #0, the Fool is the card of infinite possibilities. The bag on the staff indicates that he has all he needs to do or be anything he wants, he has only to stop and unpack. He is on his way to a brand new beginning. But the card carries a little bark of warning as well. Stop daydreaming and fantasizing and watch your step, lest you fall and end up looking the fool.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Buddha Energy...

     I took myself on a delightful little "field trip" the other day to the AS IF Gallery (Artists Studio in the Foothills) in Grass Valley, a place I hate to admit I hadn't even known existed before this. On exhibit is an eclectic collection of works gathered together around a wonderfully creative idea.
     Twenty-one local artists were each given a blank white canvas on which to express their creativity and display their individual artistic style in preparation for the current showing. The unique canvases came in three sizes: quite large (about 4-foot), medium, and rather small (about 18-inches). It was the unique nature of the canvases that attracted my attention and drew me to the gallery. Each canvas is in the shape of a three-dimensional mask, a peacefully meditating Buddha face. The small airy gallery is spiritually transformed by the Twenty-One Buddhas show.

     One golden Buddha looks ancient, like he had been found in a newly discovered archeological dig. Another is painted like a deep-blue midnight sky filled with stars, giving the sense that the Buddha is peacefully dreaming. A garden Buddha is overgrown with masses of bold flowers in full bloom, another wears gleaming golden leaf prints. The branches and roots of a traditional Tree of Life spread across one tranquil face, while another has been transformed into a vibrant African ceremonial mask.
     The colors and textures, the styles and media, used by the individual artists vary widely, creating a myriad of moods. Many are calm and mindful, others wildly awake. Buddhas are painted, collaged, bejeweled, and appliqued. Masks in soft-textured pastel temperas hang in contrast with those made intense with shiny lacquers. All are beautiful and all appear to manifest an authentic human spirit.

     But it was Mosaic Buddha that touched me most deeply. Covered entirely in carefully arranged bits of blue and white tiles and beads and tiny silver mirrors, this face expresses so much depth. Distinct patterns appear to flow and move like water across the serene face, both accentuating the human shape of the face and hiding it. Mirrors reflected my own face back to me thousands of times. As I moved, the light and the pattern moved, too, changing the face of Buddha and bringing him mysteriously alive. His moving spirit directly connected to my own reflected movements.

     Adjoining the inspiring gallery are several artists' studios that display both completed pieces and works in progress. There are even classes available; it's a very "happenin' place!" The photo of the Buddhas above came to me via an email from the gallery's blog, and I share it with you in the hopes that it will fill you with enthusiasm to take yourself on a little field trip!
Om mani padme hum.