Monday, July 14, 2008

A Religious Variety of Experience in Nature, Mr. James...

monday, july 14th, coastal oregon

we arrived chez ellenberg on the beach last evening after four days on the road all five of us stuffed into a mini-suv touring sacred american landscapes. for me, as always, there is the eternal allure of the open road, particularly out west, where the space is so generous and the sky so full, when i return to the states.

maybe because i've lived away for so many decades now, this romance draws me back every year, every summer. like a classic american john ford movie, as the camera scans the landscape, monument valley, or the distant mountains, portending the coming drama of conquest, fate, fall and, at times, redemption...

the leslie-chans left bangkok on the 9th early morning after a relaxing three days along the chao praya at leah's favorite marriott hotel, swimming, hanging in the jacuzzi and out eating on the streets. our last late night was with luke davis, older brother and eternal childhood friend, now lincoln school teacher, of josh and ezra. we ate dinner at shakun's favorite yak yor seafood restaurant right on the river, above the peninsula, then walked back nearly an hour about midnight along the semi-deserted bangkok road, when we bid adieu to luke and then rested a few hours before packing up and getting to the new bkk airport at 4 am.

we arrived 24 long, long hours later at nearly the same time, early morning, crossing the int'l time line to arrive in sf int'l where we began our drive via occidental, lassen, shasta & crater lake up here to oregon.

it's great, once again, always again, perpetual present tense, to be on the open road. with the $4.50/gallon gasoline, the pervasive smoke of these wickedly persistent forest fires, roving the golden hills of northern california w/ these remarkable, astounding, snow-capped volcanos sprouting on the landscape.

we stop for a night at christopher and mary scescey's in occidental. their beautiful, rustic self-made home on a ridgetop surrounded by golden fields and redwood trees. donna sillan, our dear friend from save the children years, as well, comes up from mill valley for an evening together reminiescing and remembering as replay the past while creating our futures. save the children worlds long gone, much enjoyed, while we share our love for both northern california and the world outside.

then, the next morning, as we drive, ezi, always somwhere in his 'lord of the rings' fantasy, mythic, poetic imagination, notes scenes where his dramatization of the epic will be shot someday in the future. gandor here, gandalf there and a host of names of places that fill his vivid and stimulating creative mind.

while two classic national parks, lassen and crater lake, along the way purrfectly fits my american dreamscape. for me, america is nature, powerful, profound, spiritual, untarnished by the malls and suburbs and fast food that has desiccated the natural gift once given.

so shaku and i return to lassen with memories of having brought the boys there when they were mere tykes -- although they don't remember, we do. the memories more puissant for their now being 17 and 16 and bigger than we could have ever imagined.

josh notes half-jokingly along the trail, 'dad, you should thank us every day for spending time with you. what other 17 and 16 year olds would spend their summer with their parents.' he laughs knowingly and ezi smiles in agreement. i counter his statement, but secretly in my mind agree and do offer my thanks that we have sons who are with us, again, love us, again, and enjoy the ride, spiritually, geographically and emotionally, with us and ms. leah -- our noble family existence.

then, a day later, soon after ms. leah says, 'i don't want to see another national park' (she'd rather eat ice cream and play with iris up on oregon...) crater lake takes its place among the most majestic and intoxicating natural phenomena on the face of the planet. it shud really be up on the tibetan plateau where its silent awesome spirit wud be at home. so blue you wouldn't believe!

crater lake is one of the most magnificent natural sites we'd ever seen. a collapsed volcano that sank into the molten lava 7,700 years ago (recently, no?) to create one of the deepest, bluest lakes in the world at 7,000' in southern oregon. even at that time there must have been american native souls who lived to see or hear the crescendo that covered the equivalent of 8 states with ash (or 8" cud have covered the whole state)!

the skyline drive around crater lake is like doing buddhist 'kora' in a car circumambulating this vast open silent caldera space with elegant pine and fir forests falling away in every direction. even in mid-july there's still snow around the lake where we could stop, take family photos, and have leah chase us all (me, in particular) w/ vigorous snowball fights.

crater lake is phenomenally beautiful with shades of dark ink blue color the like i've never seen in nature. it's spiritual palette of heaven so close to the sky. one literally sits in awe and radical amazement. it's a religious experience of nature.

alas, we put the foot to the pedal and floated off that cerulean, volcanic cyclops surrounded by rich, dank fir and pine forests to the central plains of oregon, amid the heat and dust and fast food of america to skirt portland and beaverton and head out, again, through endless canopies of forest to the oregon coast.

i love this open road. i can drive for hours mesmerized by the beauty and cleanliness of the nature around us. the exquisite landscape of northern california first, then the more forested, rugged oregon wilderness.

not to mention ezi and josh are great djs ('death cab for cuties', jack johnson, tupac, john legand, 'snow patrol') on the ipod as we allow america to draw us in. great, of course, to be a family together on the road.

some seven hours later, we could see sea. sea, ho! and slowed the pace as we sought the turn-off down a quiet lane to the sanctuary of dave & lisa's summer retreat. a wee bridge across a wee stream and under the towering red cedar was their gingerbread home. no one home, of course, as in the goldilocks story, so we made ourselves at home until the ellenbergs came from their evening perigrination along the beach.

we rest now, this morning, as ms. leah has gone with ms. iris to the beach on their own (high tide, dave says, so no danger to our little lasses to be swept away by an unusual destiny on the blue ocean of oregon...). the boys read. shakun showers. daves's out in the sun. lisa's gone to find a movie for tonight.

while, i, of course, write...

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