The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Winter Solstice 1998 || Volume I, Number 3


Sovranes Spring Renewal:
El Niño Aftermath
By John Courtney

"Things are the God" Jeffers tells us, and I go for walks in Jeffers' Country to see the things that opened him to this realization. It seems to me that all fervent lovers of nature will gain intensity in their passion with reading the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. A recent experience at Sovranes in Garrapata State Park vividly emphasized this for me. I hike there often; it is readily accessible and the moods and pure beauty, sustained throughout it's dimensions, draw me. I had not been there since the beginning of winter and was eager to reconnect with all my favorite sites. I was not prepared for what I saw.

The further I hiked up the canyon the more confused I became. The trail was gone, my landmarks were missing. The winter floods had enlarged the creek to river dimensions and in places coursed completely across the canyon. The walls were pulled down and washed to sea, or swept into broad scars of raw sandstone and granite. Broken trees lay strewn atop the rubble. In my initial shock I was afraid I would not recognize my favorite sites; gradually I realized they no longer existed.

I revered those rocky creek hideaways roofed with redwood and willow and decked with grasses and flowers. I loved to sit in them with the thrashers, sparrows, wrens, wind and creek sounds. My confusion soon mixed with anger and sorrow. Jeffers' (who always seems immediate here) words came to mind: "Beauty is not always lovely," "Violence, is still the sire of all the world's values," "God tortures himself to discover himself." I then recalled "Night Without Sleep," in which Jeffers described the events so evident about me…

"Cataracts of rock
Rain down the mountain from cliff to cliff and torment the stream-bed.
        The stream deals with them. The laurels are wounded,
Redwoods go down with their earth and lie thwart the gorge. I hear the
        torrent boulders battering each other,
I feel the flesh of the mountain move on its bones in the wet darkness.

Is this more beautiful
Than man's disasters? These wounds will heal in their time."
As I found my way up the torn canyon I was determined to stay open to the promise of renewal.

Higher up the canyon the destruction became even more apparent, yet I became aware of the more subtle evidence of recovery. I saw pooling waterfalls in series; first 40 foot, then 12 foot, then a 6 foot fall. I saw endurance in the resistant boulders, persistence in the re-sprouting roots, and hope in the emerging seedlings. Unable to locate trails I have taken countless times before, I climbed up to Rocky Ridge by way of one of the numerous tan rents on the sheer green mountainside torn by the force of the descending torrents. I slowly climbed the steep furrow grasping the newly exposed rocks and roots and finally emerged on top of the ridge. In the late afternoon swifts and swallows were in a feeding frenzy as insects swarmed in drunken gaiety through the fields of spring flowers. At one point the violet-green swallows seemed to be dive bombing me, but I soon realized that I had arrived overheated, sweaty, and cloaked in a swarm of gnats. I could focus on a single gnat and watch as it disappeared with a passing swallow. As I hiked south the mountain green gave way to evening fuchsia. I clambered down towards the sea and the sunset, realizing that at Sovranes beauty is insuppressable.

I had been away for too long and I yearned for the beauty I had known. I encountered reality beyond my expectation and Jeffers wisdom guided me to a deeper appreciation and understanding. "This place is the noblest thing I have ever seen," Jeffers said, and I understand why.

The author above Sovranes, pondering the divinely superfluous beauty.

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