Winter has chased me south to the Pacific Coast near Los Angeles as 2016 draws to a close. Here, I encounter the bright light etched across my childhood memories. Everything looks bleached and a little faded, except for the magical bougainvillia vine, spilling magenta and blood red blooms across chain-link fences and cement walls.
On the drive from Nelson, B.C. through the Interior Plateau and Oregon’s High Desert, I watched ancient volcanoes form cone-shaped, snow-covered peaks in the south-Cascades: Mt. Hood, the Three Sisters and finally, Mt. Shasta, the southernmost of them all in Northern California. As I drove, I measured the effects of lava that once bubbled and swirled across the Earth’s surface but today lies quietly undulating beneath scattered pine forests.
On a walk along a central California coastal beach a few days later, I encountered another landscape shifting and moving – this one from the effects of salt water. The tides had pulled at this shred of sea kelp, depositing sand in the plant’s grooves and scoring tiny canyons filled with late-afternoon shadow.
Finding a sand dollar might have once made me feel like the luckiest child alive. I couldn’t bear to pick this one up, for fear of dislodging the geological grace that had brought it to the surface and moved it into my path.
The wettest sand near the tide line is always smooth as glass. Here, the sea had flung many sea grasses and kelps that seemed on the move, not yet decided, greatly inclined to shift yet again. This bull kelp had its own mind about where it was going. Back in my van for a few months this winter, I join up with the tide line of a life undecided and still on the move. More sand than lava, sea grass than pine.