In the Beginning
So, after years of schooling, after decades of eating the grains and seeds of the earth, Santa Rosa plums from our backyard, See Canyon Apples, Bell Peppers growing in the alluvial earth of the Santa Lucia Mountains, abalone harvested by my father, fish from Lopez Lake, powering my mind on carbohydrates and proteins, I have tried to learn and understand this system of earth as best I can. I have failed miserably. Nonetheless, when I had a chance to do research for my PhD on human and environment connections, I could think of no better place to study than that of my home. Today, I start a short story, a walk through place and time to try and share my home with you.
Today is December 13th, 2011, Saint Lucia’s Day, 12 days until Christmas, and on the Julian calendar it was known to be the shortest day of the year. It is a day named for a Christian martyr who heard the word of Christ and gave all of her dowry money to the poor. When her soon-to-be-husband heard of this, he accused her of believing in Christianity and she was sentenced to death. When guards came to take her away, they could not move her, she was like a mountain. Hundreds of men and oxen tried to move her and couldn’t. They piled wood around her to burn, and it did nothing. She prophesized to the guards and even when they slit her throat she kept speaking to them.
After long days of storms on the open ocean, the swell subsided, the skies cleared, and on this day, in the year 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino rounded Point Sal and saw the Coast Range emerging from the sand dunes at Oceano. He named the mountain range the Santa Lucia.
Today, over 400 years later, I am hiking out to Point Sal. With me is an old friend, no, more than that, he was a neighbor; we shared a neighborhood in common; we shared a lot of time wondering around our hometown together. He was like the brother I never had while growing up (I have one now, but he is much younger). I thought I was going to hike alone, but the night before, Chris called me up and said he was in and excited to go. He had never been to Paradise Beach.
History is strange to me. We often think of it as being linear. It has a place where it must have started, and perhaps we think it must all end too. For my Master’s degree I studied the idea of epic in poetry. All great epics begin in the middle of the story. It is called en medius res. I think they start in the middle because epic stories of ancient history have no clear beginnings. Some, such as the writings of Homer, don’t even have a clear author because they were oral traditions passed by the light of camp fires for centuries. For all of humans’ existence, we haven’t known clearly where anything began, but we try to make sense through stories. The past is a mystery we unravel as the present moves forward. Somewhere in history, the sun must have started “and there was light.” And then, the firmament, the expanse of sky, the division of water on earth and water in clouds opened to a steamy hot molten earth and condensed again into clouds and rained again onto hot land and condensed again and the earth must have been humid. I begin this writing, not at Point Sal, but on a walk towards Point Sal because this is a place where the ocean and land meet, but I can’t magically appear on the beach there. Nothing begins from darkness except from the darkness of our memory and history. The complexity of human migration has no real beginning. However, this is a place where the water cycle converges, the middle of the coastline of the Chumash people. Bang! The car door shuts and we begin to hike.