June 07, 2010

The Edge of Paradise

The weather has been glorious here in California.  In fact, as I write this (sunday evening) the setting sun, still an hour and a half from the horizon is streaming into the den, shining on my face.  I just spent the last hour lying on a short wicker sofa on the front porch, reading (The Children's Book by A.S.Byatt).  Before that I had stood in the sunshine in front of church for a good 30 minutes, and sat in the sunshine in a friend's backyard during a savory, festive brunch.  I am catching as much Vitamin D as I possibly can.  But I have the deep seated, though almost certainly false, idea that this sun in California is full of much more than vitamins.  I'm going to soak up as much of it as possible, so that it may work its magic on me.

Though I grew up in the Napa Valley, on the shoulder of Mt. Veeder, my parents now live on a long thin island in the northernmost tip of the bay.  We are a mere 30 feet above sea level, on the westernmost street of inhabitable land.  The island continues west for several miles of non-tidal marshland, gated off by chain link fences and the threat of coyotes.  Neither of these things scare me in the daylight, and, if I had proper shoes, I'd sally forth to explore.

With only sparkly, magenta flip-flops, I decided to take on a gentler challenge: the hill at the end of our street.  It is about 40 feet tall, almost straight up, and covered in tall golden grass, brambles and the occasional scotch broom.  I managed to scale it without getting brambles in between my toes. (I was so cautious of brambles when I was a little kid.  It is good to grow out of some things certainly.)

From the top of the hill I could see, west, Mt. Tamalpias, and her sisters, who make up the small, old Pacific Coast range.  Though the sun was warm, I was chilled by the unruly wind that whipped around me after crossing 40 miles of wide open watery expanse.  The wind came from a dark but luminous bank of fog, that hid the tops of the mountains.  Though it was lit up by the afternoon sun, it threatened my sunny contentment.

There is nothing like this beauty in any other place I have lived or visited.  The Bay is totally developed and, where possible, inhabited--and yet there are huge portions of land that are wild, untamed, and awesome.  There are many scenes of beauty in Washington and I often stop to drink them in. But they seem entirely manufactured compared to the scene spread out before me.  I felt as if I were on the edge of Paradise (though I am not sure if I was in it looking out or out looking in).  I felt as if this scene was the metaphor for the Christian life: our craft, culture, and civilization, in perfect balance with the immediate beauty of Creation--but only for an instant, giving us the strength and inspiration to continue onward and upward and home.

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