Lake Elsinore, Riverside County Clay Dunes

Tramping life takes a hard nature and an open heart, two things often put in direct paradox with one another. Perhaps I am not a true tramp, as I do frequent the public system, or planes once in a while, but the faring of travel has been my way of experience as of late. I have lived in North America my entire life, and only recently in England, where the countryside remains lush with floral diversity almost all year round, and has very pronounced seasonal change. When I went to visit a friend in Lake Elsinore, California, the green was stripped from the landscape and brazed instead with a desert rust brown. Of the clay and sand which surrounded his home, for miles and miles. The vegetation was of the hardiest survivors I have encountered on my walks, nearly brittle yet preserving enough of the life giving waters to stand the heat. Even the trees grew from bare rock, their roots seeking the womb of the soil where any nutrients had long broken up beneath and offered sustenance for their weathered forms. Eucalyptus, with its mottled bark camouflaged the backroads and ditches, the palms spread in the hottest, more acidic grounds, Cacti and Datura shared the barren flats of clay, or tucked themselves into the hard reaching corners of the forest. Pine took up countenance with the other gnarled trees of the area and provided some shade for the succulent plants, some herbaceous and aromatic. Mountain lions prowled on the summits with coyotes preferring the path of least resistance closer to the low grounds.

I felt a wild unrestrained freedom in these valleys, like a Bedouin or Outlaw fleeing from the industrialization of the mega-city. The hills gave me a sense of wonder for each one, spurring me to climb a few of them by night and day. They aroused certain primal instincts to climb and conquer, to see what was on the other side, or just go further down the road, around the bend… Being in the heat was also a change of routine. When living in a temperate climate and suitable temperature for any kind of activity, we often act out unconsciously to our environment, rather than react. Especially when we have spent generations trying to alter our own living environment to suit us. The clay dunes were not mild, or ‘comfortable’ in most sense of the word, but forced me to be resourceful and reserve my energy whenever possible. To take the path of least resistance, and know how to read the signs of exhaustion. It occurred to me many times, how precarious a situation I put myself in, after climbing 20 minutes to the top of one of the hills, where the lions were prevalent, heat fainting was a real danger, and no one could hear me even if I screamed. The fight or flight response kicks in, and you are forced to be very aware of your surroundings. I had spotted some of the wild fauna there, even by night sight, Coyote, jack hare, lizards and a falcon near her nest. All of them belonging to a place before humans had any say in it. It was a special feeling to share their habitat.

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I also spent time building a garden. As I find myself moving locations frequently, it becomes increasingly difficult to develop relationships with the land. That may the very reason I relate to bioregional animism and not just static animist spirituality. The garden was emblematic of something remote yet constant, situated yet in continual evolution. I built it for my friend Sam Zermeno and his wife Amanda. I collected some of the Eucalyptus logs which had been cut down, presumably for firewood, and gave them a second life as retaining walls for the soil. Then weaving succulent green plants around the hewn logs and a bobcat skull centered in the garden, and candles for illumination. The entire garden was built with magic and healing intent, and chanted over with galdr for fruition. This small patch of soil, which I tilled with a pickaxe is a symbol of life, an entire ecosystem about to unfold, in the stark deserted wastes that brooded over it. The growing season is very different than what I am used to in North America or England, so the chances of year round harvest are probable.

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