I was changed forever by Turtle Island, Gary Snyder’s 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poems and essays. I was changed again when I heard his voice inhabit the words I’d only previously experienced through the implausible linkage of his written symbols scratched onto paper, then sensed by my eyes and transmitted to my brain and heart. Hearing him breathe the words and take his time with the telling opened a new world to me.
I especially always loved Gary’s depiction of his place on San Juan Ridge in Nevada County, California. He gave an “address” of a sort, in the piece titled “What’s Meant By Here”, but one that forces us to understand the land and the water and the critters, more than the grids made by humans.
So at the risk of plagiarizing his idea:
The snows melt high in the Indian Peaks, on the east side of Arapahoe, Kiowa, Pawnee, Cathedral, Arikari and Paiute, running down through the rock and scrub, filling tiny trickles of streams that eventually become Left Hand Creek. Lower, and slightly south of the drainage, our little creek, Six Mile, begins to flow below Lee Hill, just five hundred feet or so above us.
Down here in the forest we and the deer and bears and lions and foxes and turkeys are less exposed: safer, with plenty to eat. Often one another. The winds threaten to level the forest. Fire is constantly on our minds. But somehow, here at over 7,000 feet, both mushrooms and cacti manage to co-exist.
At times our creek is quiet and dry. In good years it flows and we can hear it up on our ridge. It flows east and down, joining with Left Hand Creek below us, then on out to the Plains and the Platte, the Missouri, the Mississippi, down to New Orleans and the Gulf. Once I wrote that when I stick my ear into Six Mile Creek, I can hear a forlorn saxophone.
David says our wells are fed by the “sponge” of Lee Hill, and not the high, Rocky Mountain runoff. So with anticipation, we watch the skies, and the storms that cross over from the Pacific.
The power goes out often, and we shift to wood heat and candlelight.
Eastward, we see the sun rise over Kansas.
Our zendo bells ring out the windows and down the canyon, past Harrison’s, tinkling onto the prairie, calling all to attention.
This is home.