When I came across the lines from Seamus Hearney writing of Dane-myths which "sweep in off the moors" and come to us, "down through the mist-bands of Anglo-Saxon England" (Saxon Hall) I was reminded of the mytho-poetic tradition that has Landscape as its object. Landscape has meaning quite apart from its morphological, botanical and geological significance, and it is here, at the edge of history and anthropology and in the murk of romance, superstition and legend that I imagine the wallows and the rises of the land through a mythic home-spun.

Walking down Koenigstein Road on the weekend, Sunday afternoon: low clouds describing a curtailed valley spread below, weed patch at roadside trending to chaparral beyond: there is a pathos in the rough marks of man that one hundred and fifty years of Euro-American occupation have made on the land. Specifically, the crude pragmatism of the development of 20 acre parcels along a road (that originally served a hunting lodge at the opening to Bear Canyon) where plastic piping rises vertically in places from the bush marking lot lines or lies broken on the ground turning brittle in the sun and tumbled sandstone rip-rap emerges bright yellow in the even light from the darkening brush. The detritus of a developer's dreams being slowly obliterated by the primal energy of the earth; the hunting lodge lost in a long ago fire.

Worked at long and wisely enough a kind of symbiosis can develop between the landscape and human settlement. It's called civilization. It is not the place I have chosen to live.

Classical civilization has, as Simon Schama notes in Landscape and Memory, 1995, always "defined itself against the primeval woods". Likewise, the east coast of the United States - with its Jeffersonian, neo-classical overtones, establishes its identity in part in opposition to the left coast, the barbaric frontier of California. Latter-day warriors arrived in the Upper Ojai valley weilding not clubs and spears but back hoes, chain saws and oil drilling rigs. Oaklands were turned into rough fields of alien grasses and chaparral into weed patches. Looking down the valley there are horse properties, mac-mansions rubbing shoulders with manufactured homes and the occasional well-sited house at ease in the landscape. Mostly it's the marks of raw accommodation between immediate, un-restrained human appetites and the natural world - this afternoon edged by low clouds that threaten soon to smother them.

Perhaps because I grew up in the velvety Surrey countryside where moss and lichen quickly soften the edges of road and building and even the railway cuttings seemed ancient like Offa's dyke (the great earthwork built by the Saxon King of Mercia to discourage attack from the Welsh people of Powys) I have ended up in places where nature is yet to be submerged, or co-opted by the blandishments of multi-layered civilizations. I have chosen the raw and the newly desecrated. I have repaired, as Tacitus writes of Germania, to "region(s) hideous and rude". Here I find the rough energy of ancient landscapes brushing against arriviste civilization. The chaparral and the Australian bush - both so recently home to aboriginal peoples bound to the land and where lingers still a spiritual imprint - are landscapes that tell stories barely dimmed by the ravages of the barbarian horde (and count me amongst their number).

In Kangaroo, his one Australian novel, D.H. Lawrence writes,

"The soft, blue, humanless sky of Australia, the pale, white unwritten atmosphere of Australia. Tabula rasa. The world a new leaf. And on the new leaf, nothing. The white clarity of the Australian, fragile atmosphere. Without a mark, without a record."

And here, it's still morning in California, the dew has not yet quite left the land and faint vibrations remain of a spiritual vision that saw all the living things of the world fully enfolded within the cosmos. There is a scale to the natural world at the edges of the Upper Ojai valley where chaparral or oak woodland begin to dominate the urban/wildland dyad. Mystery and myth begin at these edges. There is separation between the sublime and the prosaic. In older cultures, in Europe, this separation is less obvious - there is a co-mingling of the two, a symbiosis that perhaps vitiates the power of both.

Magical things still happen in these places of comfortable accommodation between the built and the wild environments. As a child I believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden, and circles of mushrooms, or pixie rings that I would come across in the suburban woods confirmed my faith. Later, riding pillion on my father's motorcycle through the South Downs, he would point out (shouting through the noise of the tiny 125cc engine and the flapping of scarves and macintoshes) the bronze-age burial mounds (tumuli) that dot the soft de-forested hills.These signs of death amidst ancient life fascinated me and gave the landscape a gothic tension, a frisson of the macabre. The hills had long been brought into the agricultural realm, cleared of their woodlands some 6,000 years previously as the stone-age people abandoned their hunting and gathering existence and developed grazing for domestic stock and fields for crops. The truly wild, in England at least, is best imagined, for there are precious few acres of untrammeled land.

Venturing into un-touched chaparral up on the mesa between Koenigstein and Sisar, land marred only by a crudely drawn bulldozed trail, there is a sense of entering a primeval realm. One early morning last week, fully dark with my head light illuminating the path, I saw a bright light close to the ground just up ahead. My first thought was that it was a firefly. As I approached the light rose into the air and fluttered away. I saw a second light and was still going with the firefly theory. When I saw the third, I was close enough to see that it was a bird which rose from the ground - with a firefly in its beak perhaps? As the lights continued to appear before me, my senses fully alert, I realized that it was the bird's eyes that burned with this fierce light (reflecting my head lamp) and that I was disturbing a flock of ground-roosting Nightjars.

Sometimes known as Goatsuckers (in the mistaken belief that they feed at the teats of goats) these crepuscular birds have large round eyes - like their nocturnal brethren the owl. What I saw, according to my bird guide, were Lesser Nighthawks ( Chordeiles acutipennis) - what I experienced was fluttering fairy-lights in a mythic landscape.

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