For the last seven years, I have lived on the western slope of a steep mountain range, which descends into sheer cliffs at the Pacific Ocean. These mountains and coastline, its ravines, rivers, forests, and innumerable other natural aspects are collectively known as Big Sur.
This place has been my home and my teacher. I have offered myself to the land as fully as I’ve known how, hobbled as I am by my late-20th- century, Anglo upbringing. Big Sur, in turn, has spent twenty-eight seasons flintknapping my heart-mind into a useful shape.
I’ve done what I could for myself. Hiking hundreds of miles of trail. Fasting alone in the backcountry. Learning to cull embers from a fire-board and spindle. Memorizing the many names and habits of native plants and animals. Chainsaw lessons from neighbors. Collecting mussels in high surf. Growing food with the young ones at our local school. I feel that I have shown up for the task of inhabitation.
However, it is not simply a literacy of the wild that I seek. I long for rich relationship, place-based intimacy. Many times I have asked the land directly “how should I be here?” Invariably the hushed answer has been the same: be present, be patient, participate. Practicing these precepts has allowed, at times, for a subtle commingling of self and place. Which has in turn revealed pathways into the liminal, the numinous, and the mythological dimensions of this landscape and my own being.
Bathing in the shadows of condors and redwoods, I’ve caught glimpses of the deep, dark mysteries of this land. I have heard snippets of the primordial language of stone, storm, and soil. And for the briefest moments I have sensed the true soul of the place, Big Sur’s essential nature, her unborn mind. Slowly, some of these fragmented, half-knowings have expanded inside me, forming poems and songs.
I spent four years recording Cold Spring. On the geologic timescale (where the grandest songs-of-place play out) four years is perhaps akin to a single heart-beat. But we humans are a fast moving species, brief for this world. And though the mountains are not likely to agree, I took my time. This record is a collection of slow unfoldings and deep listenings.