What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world, and we all live there.

–-- William Stafford, from "For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid"

Reflections at Palm Canyon

At the bot­tom of a rocky canyon grow the native Cal­i­for­nia Fan Palms, in clus­ters along an unex­pect­ed water­course. It is a wind­ing oasis under the bril­liant, raw sun, an ancient home of the Cahuil­la peo­ple. I have to be care­ful of the rat­tlesnakes here, for the water attracts them, but in the­o­ry, assum­ing I look where I step, I’ll be okay. As I enter the grove of tow­er­ing, long-skirt­ed palms I real­ize this is tru­ly a sanc­tu­ary, qui­et and shady and full of bird songs ris­ing above the back­ground trick­le of the creek. 



I am out of my ken, far from home. The canyon seems to be a metaphor for spaces that can­not be deter­mined to be clear­ly exte­ri­or or inte­ri­or. Is this real­i­ty or a dream? The dis­tinc­tion quick­ly slith­ers away into the underbrush. 


In my oth­er life I go from con­ver­sa­tion to con­ver­sa­tion, try­ing to make sense of the known and the unknown, the rea­soned and unrea­soned parts of mind we all car­ry with­in us. But here the order, if dream­like, is clear: just fol­low this path along this stream. At each new cor­ner observe how anoth­er grove emerges. They are arranged by some implic­it mathematic. 


Here are some black­ened sur­vivors of past fires; here are rows of tall, showy dancers. Here is an old moth­er or father sit­ting on a side­hill with skirts flow­ing all the way to the ground.

DSC_0178 - Version 2

The canyon is an inhos­pitable, stony world, with life green and chaot­ic at its core. A small cloud cross­es above me. As I lis­ten to my own breath­ing, the sound merges with a near­by buzzing — spir­it bees with a hive among the rocks.


Per­haps, I think, it is the nature of all par­adis­es to attract their snakes. To be fair they are liv­ing crea­tures and are thirsty, too. I give them too much power.


Some­how, despite my use­less fears, I must learn to make room. I must learn to share the canyon.


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