You can build some pretty intense friendships in Redroom--across a continent and a body of water. Gina and Ryoma Collia-Suzuki and I have shared our treasures, our dreams, our fears I introduce to them--and to you--my childhood and the lay of the land.
In the first five years of my life, I lived at the knees of Sleeping Dragon Mountain. I could see rice paddies and flowing blue Danshui in the middle distance. Fireflies graced the lavender evening horizon. My parents' students called to me that it was dangerous, that I might drown in the ponds, but I was too much engrossed with tadpoles to go home. In the spring wild red azaleas covered the hillside, but beneath were caves, where the Japanese holders of Taiwan for fifty years, hid their war machines.
One day when I was three years-old, I wandered in solitude to the a southern promontory of the campus. I sat on huge, flat boulder beneath an acacia with a wide canopy, and as I remained motionless on the warm stone, an overwhelming, shivering recognition of beauty flowed through my little body. As I write this piece, I realize that all my life, I've been trying to re-create that sensation.
We have since moved from Taiwan to Japan to America and have come to settle at the mouth of the Carmel River. We have had the Santa Lucia mountains of the Big Sur range in sight for thirty-eight years.
When we moved to Carmel in 1971, I said to my father, "Baba, let's go climb that hill," but I was disappointed to learn that the velveteen wooded mound was owned by Stivey Fish and only the British royalties, like Princess Margaret, had been invited to the top. This year, I heard what I had thought impossible: Fish Ranch, also known as Palo Corona, has been purchased with funds from the Big Sur Land Trust, and the mountain I've yearned to climb was now mine with a simple online permit (mprpd.org). But my father is eighty today. Those legs that took him one thousand miles on foot to flee the Communists are no longer strong. If I can get him and Mama half way up the hill next month, when the shooting stars, buttercups and the lupines flourish, it will be dream fulfilled.
Last Thursday, my friend, Junebug, and I made our maiden trek of four miles into Palo Corona Regional Park At the highest elevation of the trail, we sat down for our lunch and looked out upon the entire landscape of our childhood years as if studying the palms of our hands. There's Carmel Beach! Behind the mission is our old house and that's our sweet, cocoon of today. Hey, that where I flushed out black-crowned night herons as the fearless leader of the Immature Golden Eagle Club. Below our feet, two red-tailed hawks looped and ringed. Junebug's great grandfather, the artist, Silva, built his house in Carmel in 1902 and donated the land for the building of the Carmel Art Association.
After lunch, we walked another half mile to Anima Pond. No, I didn't drop a consonant: anima: Carl Jung's word for the feminine side of man's personality. The biologist in me was trembling to find the pond-side grass alive with the red-legged frog, an endangered species. I caught two juveniles for Junebug to ascertain that, indeed, the under part of their hind legs were tinted red. Then we watched them hop back into the sopping grass and nettles.
Last night, as the rain pattered like spilled mung beans on our roof, I dreamed of Anima Pond, veiled in the heart of the hills. I will spend the last decades of my life scanning across the valley mouth to the cotton woods, where the river Carmel run with steelheads in the winter and spring then look above to the hills, crowned with Monterey Pines and redwoods. I will shiver with ecstasy as I become a child of three.
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