Monday, May 24, 2010

Mountain Path

The path is cut in the foliage, a brown band of dry compact soil that stands out clearly in some places only to taper off and disappear completely in others. Around the bend, behind a cluster of boulders, or dipping down a shelf beside tree roots that dangle out of the cliff face like long splintered fangs, it twists and evaporates and re-emerges with the same disregard for logic displayed by a photon fired through a screen with two slits. In the silver moonlight, it assumes a lackluster roll, out shone by the pale boulders that seem to bubble up from the darkness of the earth like matte pearls. A fine gauze of mist slowly chases its own tail around the trunks of deeply grooved and twisting trees and the lazy lumps and ridges of the mountainside, content to swallow the path here and spit it out there along its way. The moonlight’s reach is stunted and muted by the mist’s slippery moist hide. In the patches where it hangs thickest like the swollen length of an albino anaconda squeezing a live hippo into extinction, the moon’s soft glow is entirely denied admittance. In these places where the light fails to penetrate, the darkness steals around unhindered, like a purple stain oozing over rocks and soil and ragged tufts of bracken. It has a life of its own, wriggling beyond the moon’s impertinent gaze. The dark green of the undergrowth is blackened and forms amorphous conglomerations that bear resemblance to sinister animals crouched over their quarry. Real beasts play their dire games amid these imposters, hiding beneath the bony branches and brittle leaves. The waxen flash of a rabbit darting from one lump of foliage to the next punctuates the slow slinking of a scrawny coyote who would be invisible except for the sheen of his eyes. A startled faun streaks over the path and bounds away, again and again, imitating the delirious loop of a skipping record.
The fresh scent of juniper hangs in the air after it has been wetted under the mists crawling belly, along with that of sage, and something faintly evocative of licorice. The musky odor of dirt is also detectable after it has been excited by such a close encounter with this moist serpentine body of vapor.
The steep cliff side drops away completely into an abyss of shaggy greenery in some places and offers the path an opportunity to continue its discordant adventures along narrow slopes. The trees here and there reach their bare riveted arms skyward and seem to hold their clusters of greenery like wispy clouds or steaming platters proffered to the sky. Rather than reaching tall and lean they seem to be stretching horizontally as though they were trying to catch their balance along the rolling slopes and keep their platters from slipping away. In these endeavors they stand apart from one another, each aware of the others’ awkward situation and the need for space, each so absorbed with their own dilemma of equilibrium that they disdain to join the crowd.
Up above them the distant round moon watches their slow negotiations with the earth’s gravity. Her dark dimples and lines form the outline of the hare, betraying her personal sympathies in regard to the desperate games of the furry creatures scrambling around among the exposed tree roots and stark boulders. The path, inspired by the moon’s attention for exhibitionism, spreads wide in the high flat places so that she can get a good look at its perfect nakedness while the mist jealously keeps its secrets and conducts its private swirling search for its self, hungrily squeezing off little quadrants of earth and engendering darkness in the process.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Artificial Ocean

Water surrounds me. I am chest deep in a place that is neither a pool, nor the great wide ocean. It is something in between. Wild, gently rippling water encased in cement walls far away, so far as to give the illusion of “nature,” though I sense some calculated design. The water’s surface is mostly flat, rippling like an almost-still lake, it’s water line punctuated only by several dozen people and sparse tall boulders that sprout from the floor of sand. On my face is a plastic snorkel mask, in my mouth is the breathing tube connecting me to the world of mammals.
My face stays below the water’s surface and I survey the world below. The water is almost clear, each handful is clear as glass, but all added together, contained as it is, it has a tinge of blue. I feel the warmth of the sun overhead, a strong yellow sun that seems so close I could grab it. The blue sky weighs on my shoulders like a roof, like something firm and heavy stands just a few feet away, peering over me like a mother’s watchful eye. It is oppressive and near, and I keep my head below the surface, shying away from its presence.
With a full breath in my lungs, I move slowly through the water, moving my arms and legs gently, as slowly as possible, trying my best not to disturb the water and the layer of soft white sand by my feet. As I paddle and move my arms through the liquid, I look down at the wide-faced flowers growing on corkscrew stems from the white sand floor. The flowers are round, the size of large dinner platters with deep centers and three protruding yellow stamens. The petals look like silk in the water, so thin and soft and shimmering slightly. Most of them are a fire engine red, but sprinkled among the thicket are bright yellow blooms.
I move slowly through the water, careful not to disrupt the sandy floor, very aware of my space in the world. Close by are other people in bathing suits. I can hear them squealing in delight as they splash in the water, swimming as though they haven’t seen the white ocean floor or the red and yellow flowers. Their movements create water ripples and send white sand storms below the surface. I wait patiently and watch as the sand floats back to the bottom, calm once again. I watch the flowers until I hear another shriek and another flurry of sand clouds my vision.