Forest forms live in and out of dimensions. Treetops to root bottoms: the curious eye explores them each and all. As that focus travels, to the wending of lines and greater lines, organisms become pure geometry. Like bookshelf inhabitants, individual firs unify, and symbolic meaning displaces life in its barest sense. Entire populations are known by one or two blithe names. Certain woodlands gently appraise the landscape, others rise and fall with the whispers of cliffs and shadows.
The stubby ridges of California’s central Coastal Range trace elliptical identities with the nonchalance of lesser regions. Host to autochthonous animals and plants with ever-aweing displays, the range is nonetheless unprepossessing from a distance. Its shape lays down tensionless, mirrorless: few rocks and even fewer lakes disrupt its organ flutters. But the weather! Clouds and fog and runny bright rays!
• • •
Softened sky, where did you learn? Dinner comes with rumbling and pages turn by shuffling, but you, you Fog, you steam with the dim parcel of carried interest. Within thirty minutes, visibility shrank from ten miles to one-hundred yards. Temperatures dropped in-turn; wind blew with displaced grit. But the trail, blanketed white in places, slowly spurned the fog for proprietary perspective, for vistas unbidden by the transmogrifying tales of water droplets. Rather quickly, my expectations were overcome with a reversal of the weather. The fog noir that simplifies landscapes begs for questions. Conversely, as it is lifted and evaporated, the slink of undress reveals, and questions lose their nerve. Inwards I had been, outwards and upwards I departed.
The finest impressionists, the bravest expressionists – these painters could not have assembled the tableau before me. One staunch green ridge shone above the fog, illumined by an aboveconcealed sun, in-between crossed and crossed again by the amber peaches called Stratus.
• • •
I delighted in the horizon. Once again, as always, it stood. Only briefly was it elided into Fog. Some could say my pleasure was natural: a horizon is a constancy (like parent’s exhaustion or penguin’s fashion) and a comfort. ‘No’, said I, ‘Certainty wasn’t my concern’. I needed no frame, nor stability – such larger clothes never matched my bones.
As the trail neared its end, the scene had already disappeared irreparably. The physical given way to the metaphoric; vision is an insidiously motivating architect. So I built again the pale structures of that autumn sky. And memory further reduced their shapes just as it strengthened their purpose. To these moments – cycling on and on – I want honesty. Simplicity cannot be subdued. This I know.
[Photo: “Kern Range”, Reeva Harrison, reevaharrison.com]