Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cold Rain in California

My students from Portland feel happy and at home right now; we’re having a bout of cold rain. It brings back a time when I came out to California for a meeting at Asilomar, in Pacific Grove, near Monterey. The meeting was held in April. It was snowy back East, and all of us going to the meeting were envisioning sunny California. Today the bicycle race, The Tour of California, just raced down the coast from Seaside (Monterey) through Big Sur to San Luis Obispo. It’s some of the most beautiful coastline in the world on a sunny day. But they had the same storm we’re having, and many riders got hypothermia and had to quit the stage race today. Not sunny California after all, sullen gray-green water, curling with dirty white foam, streaming headwinds, cold water. I wonder how rain has affected each of us, how it has shaped our feelings about West Coast living. Do you revel in it because we have so little weather? Do you hate it and get hypothermia of the spirit?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Looking at Rocks for Inspiration

We have wonderful rocks in California, and they’re more visible than in other parts of the country, particularly in the desert. I remember watching students climb a huge rounded rock at Joshua Tree National Park. The rock was the size of a two story building. It looked smooth from afar, but up close it was covered with irregularities, bumps, depressions, crumbly places, and crystal outcroppings. The students held onto and to stepped on these irregularities as they scrambled to the top. I remember how the seven students looked on top of that rock. Viewing them from some 100 feet away, it was hard to imagine that they’d climbed rather than being dropped from a helicopter MASH-style. It seems to me that the rock is a symbol of writing. It looks like a miracle, but if you begin the task, the close-up is much easier than the distant view. One sentence at a time, one step at a time. Exceptions and irregularities provide openings to progress. The story comes alive and the climber rises to the top.