Towards Y2K9 (15): Good Times


 
Santa Cruz, hometown of “known sonic terrorist” (as a local newspaper wrote) and livelooping festival organizer Rick Walker, was our hometown for a week and the last stop on our 4 week northwest coast trip. We liked it a lot – so much that we really regret that we have to leave now (our flight will go tomorrow as I write this).

The main reason that I will miss Santa Cruz was the wonderful Y2K9 livelooping festival, a unique musical event – more about it in another blog post – and the people that I met during the festival – Rick of course and Chris and Bill and Nancy, and all the other loopers, old friends, new friends. Another reason was the mild, almost subtropical climate and the breathtaking coast that is famous among surfers and nature lovers.


 
Sabine wrote this about Santa Cruz:
Very young (or are we just getting old?) students everywhere, many homeless or dropped out people, a real downtown which is full of life until late resp early, at least at some evenings per week, with very nice shops, many cafés, a wonderful coastline, with rocks and spectacular waves crashing against them, changing and changing, seagulls, pelicans, flying in row and very low, even seaotters, barking sealions, two (!) little out of function lighthouses, a sandy beach with a lazy and joyful sunday afternoon atmosphere, people playing with their dogs, playing volleyball, children playing in the sand, wonderful late afternoon light …

I really hope there will be a chance for me to come back to Santa Cruz in the not too distant future … Rick has already invited me for Y2KX (in 2010) … hmmm …

Towards Y2K9 (12): Fog Treasures


 
When the cold Pacific water meets the warm California mainland, the result is fog. When we came down from Oregon to California, we started to notice that the mornings were overcast and cold, often for several hours until the sun came through.


 
Our first night in California (in Crescent City at the north end of the Redwood National Forest) was accompanied by a foghorn that hooted every 10 seconds … all the night through. It was one of the few situations where I was happy about the fact that my hearing gets notably worse with my age!

Here are some minutes of the foghorn. The hiss between consists of the ocean surf and some nightly traffic, both somewhat distant from our motel room. The foghorn was maybe a mile away. There are also some bells, their ringing seemed to also come from the direction of the foghorn:

      CrescentCityFoghorn

 
While the fog was not so nice for us human tourists, it is one of the factors that enable the rich biodiversity in this area, e.g. the wonderful redwood trees love fog, and they need it especially at the times of the year when there is little or no rain.


 
The coastal area west of the redwood forests contains a large variety of lagoons … some of them were inhabited by people, others – the more remote ones – by animals such as this seal.


 
One of the places that we visited was called “Dry Lagoon” – that triggered my curiosity. A long narrow winding road through wilderness led to it and we thought we would be alone, but the parking lot next to the beach (which was next to the dry lagoon) was full of cars, to our surprise. That many visitors, on a cold foggy day like this?


 
Part of the beach visitors consisted of surfers – amazing how they managed to move in the ice cold grey waves. We stayed for a while, watching them. It must be fun to be able to ride a wave like this – so much fun that it is worth waiting for a good wave, often for quite a long time.


 
Also, there were surprisingly many people walking along the beach, some of them with rods in their hands – they used them to pick up stones from the ground. I asked them about it and they told me that they were looking for agates – semi-precious stones that can be found on the beach especially on a rough day like this. They showed me what they had found so far – not all of the small stones looked very impressive to me but apparently they become quite beautiful when polished.

We started looking for nice stones too after this and found lots of them, most probably not being agates, but beautiful nonetheless. Good thing that we can’t take them with us on the plane! Our suitcases are more than full already.


 
We loved this place with its high grey waves, the colorful stones, and the tree logs that covered the beach like dead dinosaurs … especially in the fog which made it all seem more surreal.

Towards Y2K9 (11): Green Cathedrals


 
The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time. They have the mystery of ferns that disappeared a million years ago into the coal of the carboniferous era.” – John Steinbeck


 
We had seen the Sierra Nevada sequoias some years ago, but we hadn’t seen the redwoods of Northern California. Well the experience of awe was similar when we got there … and while the sequoias were somewhat more voluminous, and impressive as individuals, the redwoods impressed us because they are the highest trees on earth, and there were (at least that is what we thought) so many of them, turning the forest into something completely and unbelievably surreal.


 
We spent three or four days in the area, but every time we came back into the forest to walk a trail, or every time we drove one of those little streets that lead straight through the redwood forest, we couldn’t believe what we saw. There are few things that inspire open-mouthed awe as much as the redwoods do. You can’t help being impressed.

And this even though only 4 percent of the original “old growth” redwood forest is left – the “harvesting” was stopped just in time to leave some conservation areas, such as the Redwood National Forest. Incredible what human greed can do.


 
An additional awe inspiring factor when walking the redwood forest is the utter silence. There are birds singing in spring of course, but at this time of the year, in early October, the birds are quiet except for a lonely crow now and then. So you walk the green dense forest, surrounded by green skyscrapers and large ferns, and it is completely silent.


 
As Europeans who aren’t used to the presence of potentially dangerous animals, we also were just a little bit afraid at times, which added another factor to our experience. Rangers told us that bears would not go near humans, and that it would be extremely unlikely for us to see one. But, this forest was very dense and you can’t see far – there might well be a bear behind every corner, theoretically. And the fact that we had met a black bear quite close to us some years ago in the sequoia area, not too far away from other people, made us quite conscious that they are there somewhere. So there was always a slight tension in the background of our forest enjoyment, especially when we were all alone in the deep forest. Even though we love bears a lot!


 
An interesting internal experience for me was (I notice that I hesitate to talk about this, but … what the heck) that I got very conscious at one point of my mind and how it kept limiting my experience. The beauty of the scenery should have overwhelmed me, but it didn’t. It felt “flat” and normal. I felt like the beauty, or my capacity of being touched, was reduced to a trickle, my brain didn’t let much of it through for some reason. Have you noticed your brain doing that sometimes? I’ve noticed it often when I was in a place of exotic beauty and I painfully felt the limitation of being in my everyday self.

We talked about this phenomenon which was good – after feeling some frustration at first, I felt more curious and looked at various aspects of it. This little amount of disidentification, combined with communicating about it, was enough to dissolve the “blocked” feeling, and my brain – without me doing anything consciously – changed into the nonconceptual mode – it suddenly remembered how to do it. There was some time of intense thoughtless presence after this, slowly dissolving into “normality” while driving my car and getting back into thinking.


 
This kind of remembering movement to me is the most mysterious of all experiences. It can’t be made to happen (at least I can’t do it). When remembering happens, we suddenly know, and then the beauty is no longer out there – we are right at the source of beauty, independent of circumstances, as long as compulsive thinking and the broom closet of personality can be quiet and we are free. Oh how easily does this get another thing to want, another thing to be frustrated about when it can’t be reached. But the brain and whatever it is that we call consciousness goes its own way, and we better don’t meddle with its natural flow I guess.