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A Dark Place

A Dark Place
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Sentinals, standing guard, making shade, protecting the dark spaces

I’m vacationing in Northern California this week, on the Russian River, enjoying a break from the bleak, scorching brightness of LA. It is very hot here as well, but the heat is mitigated by the deep, nearly mystical shade from the redwood trees. Driving into Guerneville, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive, frightened – like little red riding hood venturing into the woods, I felt something scary would happen under the gloomy  canopy of the impossibly tall trees.

It’s a matter of psychogeography. Guy Debord coined the term as the effect of the geographical environment on the emotions and behavior of individuals. In Los Angeles, the bright sun and constant light bouncing around bright, reflective surfaces makes for an unrelenting awareness of your environment. In the woods, things are blurry, obscured, somewhat hushed. It feels odd making too much noise in the woods, as if you are yelling in a cathedral. The air is still, and the branches create the hushed coolness that is present in every church, no matter where they are. Churches in the Amazon are still cooler than the surrounding buildings – why is that?

Walking from our cabin to the river, we pass by rowdy gardens full of giant sunflowers, spent and nodding on their tall stalks, as if they want the redwoods to know that they too, are bigger than average. Brambles are everywhere, and the path to the rocky beach is lined with sweet dark fruits. We pick handfuls and enjoy our snacks. Emerging into a clearing, the smell of sage and artemisia is heavy in the air, pungent and clean. Floating in the water I see the tops of the redwoods standing guard over the banks of the river, casting a cooling shade over my pale skin, insuring that today, I won’t burn.

Walking back from the river, wild fennel sways back and forth and I gather seeds for later. They’ll be delicious in a pasta. I put a dried salvia blossom in my hair and had a few more berries. I laughed to myself about my earlier fear of the tall trees – because in this heat, they sheltered the growth that made my experience of this environment so poignant. The dappled light doesn’t scorch – it is just right. So maybe this fairy tale isn’t about the girl and a wolf, maybe it is more like the three bears, and I am Goldilocks – finding something that feels just right.

Posted by

Ivette Soler
on July 29, 2015 at 1:51 am, in the category Real Gardens, Uncategorized.

6 Comments

    • Ivette Soler
    • 12th October 2016

    My extreme pleasure Joe! The Ranters are excellent traveling companions!

    • Annie
    • 11th November 2016

    I love this. “In the woods, things are blurry, obscured, somewhat hushed. It feels odd making too much noise in the woods, as if you are yelling in a cathedral.”

    • Ivette Soler
    • 12th November 2016

    Annie! Thank you! Any writer LOVES being quoted back to! You are so sweet, and thank you for reading my words with such an open heart.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 12th November 2016

    A. Marina – I LOVE the area! I’ve been before, years ago, and was enchanted, so the opportunity to visit for a week was pure joy. I didn’t get a chance to spend any imd in Sebastapol – that will have to happen next year! I know this area will draw me up again and again, much in the way Ojai does. I love California! So much gorgeousness to be enveloped by! Thanks for those tips – I’ll keep them handy for next time!

    • Ivette Soler
    • 13th November 2016

    Anne I’m happy you liked the piece, and that Debord’s idea of psychogeography found resonance with you. I think all of us who have experienced being moved by a sublime moment in nature feel ourselves changed, sometimes forever – but the notion extends to the more banal, day to day experiences (still very important!). He talks a lot about the way people can approach their ways of experiencing a city as being more playful, encountering the built environment as a kind of challenge to find something other than the humdrum, so I think the notion can be very useful to those who move around. And to those who travel! Having an awareness of what our external space does to our internal experience is allowing a deeper experience, and I like that! Have fun pondering!

    • David mcMullin
    • 13th November 2016

    Yvette, its been a year without California for me and I appreciate your sensuous mind trip that helps me trade the mildew of a too-hot southern summer for that eternal and ethereal place of vertical lines and blue shadows. Thanks for the reminder of a place that I love.

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