A tiny spore emerges from the leaf tip, unfurling, a tuft of amber down, it clings for a moment and it shudders in the ocean wind. And then it’s gone. It rises and swirls in an updraft, and above the cliff side it joins other gossamers, newly loosened and likewise air born in this rite of October here above the Headlands in Marin.

I, too, am newly loosened and freshly born. I am unfurled, the husk of some previous version of myself still crackles at my feet. I am 49, but no age offers safety or respite from these ever-hatching incarnations, these rebirths, these growth-spurts triggered by flame. I am just another pinecone waiting for the forest to burn. And here I wander. Among the cypress trees and catacombs, where the men, of what is now called the greatest generation, crouched and crawled, as they waited for an invasion that never came.

The spores are blowing. Sometimes they catch on the nearby branches and if I stand still awhile they gather round the soles of my shoes like tiny crabs seeking shelter beneath a stone on the beach. All around me I see the evidence of life asserting itself through the emergence and corruption of form. The concrete bunkers built here during the run up to the last world war are in decay, yet their walls are freshly painted. I see the names of the living, glowing on the tombs of the dead. And everywhere I see the spores. They fall like snowflakes and gather in hair-like drifts, each seeking purchase, some chance of taking root so as to become yet another scrub-like bush.

I am here for reasons I cannot name. I am a ghost-hunter in search of a sign transmitted from the spirit world. There are portals, everywhere, that lead not to some otherside land beyond the known world, but back to ourselves, back to unity. I spent the better part of my life searching for you and for God. But you can’t find what you’ve not lost. It’s like that fevered madness you go through when you’re sure you lost your car keys and it turns out they were in your pocket the whole time. Slow down. Breathe, the world says. Fire is liberation. There is no death, only passage.

I find a hole in the bunker wall too small for a man to walk through, so I crouch and reduce myself to the stature of a child, passing through a black threshold into a part of the complex I have never before seen. The way is narrow and dark. Why should there be a tunnel like this, where a man is forced to squat and move slowly in the dark? Ah yes. These are shore defenses, built to repel invading bodies, to render them lifeless. They are not designed to enhance movement, but to impede it.

It’s a Cul-de-Sac. I emerge from the tunnel to find the scene you see before you in the photograph above. A stairway to no place, the last of the day’s sunlight glaring through a set of iron bars. There is not much to see here, yet I am transfixed, mesmerized. What is it about these inorganic concrete walls and iron bars that seem to exude so much life-energy? Can I feel the men who built this place? Can I feel those who still inhabit it? Is there life trapped within these walls of death? And what about the boys who sprayed their names on the walls? Can I feel them too?

Even the spores are here, massed together like tufts of drifting snow. What looks like sawdust is nothing less than a miraculous throng of castaways hoping for a chance at passing on a secret code of proteins so that some other bush might defy gravity, and all the odds, to become an improbable upright system, harnessing air and sunlight, becoming itself a factory of spores. Maybe one, just one of these little gossamers I see here huddled in the abandoned stairwell, will realize its potential and become something other than a drifter on the river of time. Maybe one.

o O o

51 thoughts on “Gossamers

  1. I’m with you in the ephemeral shifts of beauty in the headlands; regeneration after yet another blaze; how time and soul are all in present tense no matter how they’re measured in physical form…and I love your writing: its flow, imagery, specifics, metaphor and how it embraces more than even a photograph (which is also beautiful) can convey. Lovely piece. Thank you.

    • Thank you Elizabeth. It’s heartwarming to receive such a throughtful reply to a piece I really didn’t imagine anyone would ever read. Please feel free to friend me in on Facebook or Instagram. I post a lot of my Marin and Headlands images and it’s always nice to share them with people who live or have been there.

  2. This was breathtakingly beautiful!!! I felt like I was right there with you seeing what you were seeing
    breathing the same air you were, the stillness of just being alive and really seeing what others may
    not. This piece moved me because I myself am spiritually awakened, and been on my personal spiritual
    journey for many years now. I am learning, growing, senses heightened and more perceptive of what
    goes on around me. This is probably ONE of the most profound things I have read in a LONG time!!
    Thank you for this and your spiritual self….:)

    • I really don’t know what to say in response. A ‘thank you’ seems hollow. I write these things in the darkness and never think about a reaction. I don’t even remember the piece. But if it reached you, and spoke to you, then I know it was sent to me FOR you, as well as for me. So all I can do is marvel at the power of words to heal and bind and hope that I can continue to participate in that.

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