Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back from the Sierra

Yes, we're back, back on the Pacific Plate, from our yearly visit to North America, just to remind us why we stay in Paradise, if nothing else.

The Sierra are sublime, as always. Not the hyperbolic Yosemite of postcard fame, nor precious mountain lakes and forest glens, complete with picaresque little deerlets en suite.

I'm talking about the real Sierra, bold apodictic rock, endless blue sky, with just the right clouds scattered about for greatest esthetic effect. Red-headed woodpeckers knocking about in the giant trees, boulders larger than the Twin Towers quietly eroding in calm dignity. Reality writ large on the greatest canvas ever stretched across the horizon of time.

The trip through the urban madness of Silicon Valley and the East Bay is an exercise in human folly. Why do we humans do this to ourselves, piled yard upon yard in disconnected suburbs, connected yet held apart by ribbons of concrete frosted with slightly moving rivers of steel, aluminum, glass and plastic, propelled by dead dinosaurs and ancient ferns from where people want to leave to where people want to be, forsaking that which lies between? Why? No answer appears.

Because we can.

The stagnant, saline beauty of Mono Lake waits to pounce on the eye on the far side of Sonora Pass, it's sere majesty intact after decades of abuse, slowly returning from near death at the hands of human urbanists 350 miles away to the south. The incredible fecundity of this huge desert waterhole amazes even those biologists most familiar with its ecosystems. In a vast desert landscape of volcanic cinder cones, haphazard amalgamations of ancient lava, glacial terminal and lateral moraines, basaltic columns, vast exposed lacolithic monoclines , geosynclines, piles of naked rock gradually succumbing to inexorable gravity, the gentle waters of Mono Lake shine like a jewel in the sun.

As human self-described civilization grinds slowly to a firm and final halt, ending once and for all its fantasy of continuous growth, the solids and liquids of the Eastern Sierra will abide. The waters of Mono Lake will reach their historic apex once again, the Range of Light will catch the daily morning glow, slightly smaller each day, lacking none of its solemn grandeur. Whether there will be any humans about to appreciate the scene is unimportant. The perfection of the East Sierra requires no esthetic appreciation. It is sufficient unto itself.

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

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