Love Comes to Koenigstein

Driving down the PCH the other morning, just past Point Mugu, we pulled over to watch a pod of grey whales steam north after breeding in Magdalena Bay, Baja, Mexico. We watched the leviathans blowing and undulating their way towards their summer feeding grounds in Alaska, in the cold waters of the Bering, Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas. They were close enough to the shore for us to see the mass of barnacles on their backs. Despite massive whale hunting in California in the middle of the nineteenth century the whales have survived with this annual migration pattern intact.

A few days later, I stopped on the old coast highway above Emma Wood State Park and, for old times sake, clambered down the hill and crossed the train tracks headed for the beach where I had spent many a happy hour surfing in the late 1990's. This day, sans board, I looked south and there, about one hundred yards off-shore, I saw another pod headed north. During twenty years of consistent ocean watching from 1980 to 2000 I saw not a single cetacean from the beach. As I headed back up the track from Emma Wood I glimpsed a seal bobbing in the surf line.

In the early 1980's, returning in a light plane from our Honeymoon at the Hana Maui resort Lorrie and I watched an Orca leap from the pellucid ocean below and then put on a spectacular show of elemental power and grace - somewhere in the Kalohi channel between Molokai and Lanai as we flew towards Honolulu. The Orca is sometimes called a killer whale - a misnomer since it is actually in the dolphin family, but they do kill whales. Last week there was a story of a "pack of killer whales tearing a baby gray whale to shreds" off the Central Coast as observer groups were shepherding a wounded fully adult Grey whale towards Monterey Bay.

Our neighbor on Koenigstein, Kit Stolz, reported seeing a young condor feeding on road kill on the 150 between Upper Ojai and Thomas Aquinas College recently. He provided documentary proof in the form of a blurry i-phone picture; the silhouetted antic pinion feathers at the end of each wing, even at this age suggesting a mighty span, certainly seem to support the identification. Even closer to home, while we were away in NorCal, Margot walked a part of our property and found mountain lion scat. Following her two dogs she then found a discarded deer leg. No one has credibly seen the big cat although Lorrie thinks she might have, but it was a fleeting, distant impression rather than a definitive sighting. I walked the area last week where Margot had originally seen the scat and saw lots more - distinctive because of its size and black color, typical of the digested blood of a fresh kill. Mountain lions bury the remains of the carcass after their initial meals of blood engorged organs like the liver, kidney and heart, and return to feed off of it in subsequent days. We have put that area off limits for the time being.

These signature, archtypal creatures, whale, condor and lion each possess, one way or another, dominion over their respective element, and their lives are woven into the tapestry of human existence on a very primal level. This is a reason to live in the urban wildland, it offers an opportunity to engage with the web of life and connect with the collective unconscious, that now deeply unfashionable well of feelings that guided our ancestors and still shadows our contemporary lives.

About a year ago I wrote of two deaths on Koenigstein, and the two hilltop houses that were made vacant because of their owner's passing (Death Comes to Koenigstein). A few weeks ago I noticed a new barbed wire fence being built adjacent to the eastern boundary of our property next to the old Atmore land. I drove up to the recently purchased house and introduced myself to Josh and Meghan who run a back-country guide service in the Sespe with pack mules. The new fence, I learned, was being built to enclose a sloping meadow across the street from their house where the mules will occasionally pasture. They have opened up the house to the north and I suspect they will find it very servicable. In the mail box this Friday was a note announcing their Saturday wedding.

While we are often reminded of a vibrant natural world in this eastern borderland of Upper Ojai, it is good news indeed when the human population hereabouts tilts younger - particularly when the new additions are both locals with a thorough understanding of the local ecosystems. They come recommended by Bill Slaughter, Sheriff of Sisar, who knows them both. Josh grew up on Sulphur Mountain and attended Happy Valley School, he is determinably low tech, eschewing even an e-mail address.

Yesterday they were married at the house and early this morning several pick-up trucks were still casually parked along the corner where Koenigstein heads sharply north at the knoll where their house is perched, indicating that a very good time was had by at least those who elected not to drive back home because of the late hour or inebriation.

Josh and Meghan advertised their wedding and reception with two discreet white balloons at the 150 and a prettily painted arrow sign at Calle de las Osos, the left fork below the Bear Creek crossing which exerts a magnetic attraction to all who wander up this way not really knowing where they are going and, following the siren call of this road named for the erstwhile dude ranch at its end, subsequently get lost amongst the pinnacles and valleys of what is ultimately a gallimaufrey of dead-ends and private driveways. Some, it is said, never do get back on Koenigstein and lose their minds in this crazy land of feral emus, one hole golf-courses and ravening coon hounds.

An archetype expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors. As such, meaning oscillates between the encoded linguistic meaning and its metaphoric interpretation then resolves itself in a third place where these patterns of thought cross cultural boundaries and establish themselves deep within the human psyche - at all times and in all places. Carl Jung explains archetypal images as universal patterns or motifs which come from the collective unconscious, and are the basic content of religions, mythologies, legends and fairy tales.

On Koenigstein, we suffer a surfeit of these archetypal images: the condor and the mountain lion, as well as the viper (substantiated as the rattle snake) and the bear. Our streams run down to the ocean where whale, dolphin and seal disport themselves, while steelhead trout plash in the shallows of Sisar Creek. Now comes the mule driver Josh and his fair Meghan to live in the rickety house on top of the hill. Their mule team grazes in the meadow. Soon the hills will ring with the sound of their children and Koenigstein will be restored to its place somewhere between legend and folklore, never-never land and the faraway country of an eternal dreamtime. As your faithful scribe, dear reader, I will continue to report regularly from this place of magic, this place of archetypal surfeit.

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