The Sacramento River

The Sacramento River” by Harold Stearley at Earthwalking

And the mountain disappeared . . .

Sometimes I’m simply stuck in that urban jungle and today I was awaiting repairs to my car, the chariot to new adventures.

But not all in life is an adventure. Or is it?  Perhaps we can make it so . . .

My feet just can’t sit still for six or seven hours. Especially waiting on a part to be delivered and for someone to install it. Sorry, it’s the genes I came into this world with – plugged into the bodily form I inherited.

Walk. Anywhere. Just move.  Move damn it !

Coffee at the California Cattle Company.  Watching their little train engine chugging around in circles overhead of the diners.  Nice, but just didn’t kill enough time.  

Didn’t settle the restlessness.

So no sooner than I returned to the car dealership than I had to leave that mechanic’s shop and hit the pavement.  And before I knew it, I had come upon a bridge. Over a colossal, blue-green, meandering snake. As far as I could see in any direction.

The Sacramento River.

There are many things striking about this different colored ribbon. Not the gray of the highways I traversed to get here. This ribbon is freer.

Flowing. Unbound. Timeless.

No drop of water the same, but flowing in that never-ending cycle of evaporation, cloud formation, precipitation in the cold upper atmosphere, and back to complete the circle to the great ocean.

Unless of course, it was temporarily diverted; for us to consume.  It still finds it way back.

Just a few days before, I had rafted the Rogue River and dove deep into its surrounding wilderness. And there is a routine the body adjusts to around water courses.  You begin to flow like the water.  After all, we are composed mostly of water.  You can feel your bloodstream tune in and synchronize.

But the Rogue was remote, and this space is where a wild river meets megatons of concrete.

A bridge.

As I perch here, overlooking that once pristine river, I notice a Cliff Swallow.  Then more. They dip their beaks in the River for a cool drink while in flight.  Then they dance – that familiar murmuration.  And as they whirl, this way and that, back and forth, into that infinite symbol of the Mobius, they slowly work their way towards their destination.  Their many nesting sites under that bridge. 

I’m thrilled to see them because I had just read about their declining population.  It seems us two-leggeds had done it again.  We were killing them off by the use of neonicotinoids, a common type of insecticide.

How long before we two-leggeds poison ourselves into oblivion? Who knows? But I think we are well on our way.

I had been looking out over the waters at the occasional boats and fishermen.  And I had been looking up, at those Cliff Swallows.  But it wasn’t until I passed a backpacker coming from the opposite direction that I decided to look down.  Down to see another kind of poison oozing through the area. Well, some of the by-products of that toxin.  The poison of greed that ultimately results in the exploitation and homelessness of others.

And what do those “others” do attempting to survive. They construct make-shift shanties under protective structures such as these. Massive ones that can withstand the weather. And that are near water for drinking, bathing, fishing. A lifestyle not necessarily favored by those of us with better means.

But in a way, this primitive lifestyle has much more meaning.  For it is living with the rest of the Natural world, and it is more synchronous with Mother Earth’s Heartbeat.  And it’s why I’m out here in the first place. 

My camp being some 31 miles away.

I can hear the sound of a drumbeat, and the strings of a guitar.  Melodies to pass the time. Take one’s mind away from the destitute circumstances.  Away from gnawing hunger and tattered clothing.

It reminds me of once when I traded a gold watch for a guitar for my brother while we roamed.  We had a bit of music to warm us that night.  It took the place of full bellies, but it did sustain us for a little while.

Yes, there is more than one country wrapped up in this America.  Differences in class and wealth.  They surround us if we just open our eyes.  And I’ve seen homeless colonies before in my travels – virtually everywhere. 

This spot in Northern California is known for Mount Shasta; Waka-nunee-Tuki-wuki as named by the Karuk. The word “Shasta” possibly coming from early Russian settlers.  But prior to the imperial colonists’ settlement, the area was inhabited by the Shasta, Okwanuchu, Modoc, Achomawi, Atsugewi, Karuk, Klamath, Wintu, and Yana Tribes.

Shasta’s peak is at 14,179 feet above sea level.  You can see it from 140 miles away from the South.  It’s the second highest peak in the Cascades and fifth highest in California.

Yet where I’m at, along the River, it has vanished.  Like the tribal residents before.  Completely. 

How can a mountain hide?

A small dip in geological terms and the view is obscured.  In part by Nature, but more so by the concrete, the temporary world of illusion constructed by people.

Shasta has an approximate volume of 85 cubic miles, making it the most voluminous stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.  Imagine an 85 mile stretch of highway, cubed (stacked upon itself times three), and then wrapping that into the shape of a mountain.  And yet this humongous natural formation to my North cannot be seen here where I stand. Just 60 miles away and it is invisible. 

This invisibility can extend to many things, not just mountains, although this is a dramatic example. 

Many cannot see the birds.  They do not marvel at their song, their flight, their mud nests clinging to the bridges.  Their babies calling out for food.

They would cover up the forests with billboards, the ones they hadn’t clear-cut that is.

Most intentionally ignore the homeless.  It stirs in them those dreaded feelings of guilt.  For investing in the material over the spiritual.  For being a “have” in a “have-not world.” For lacking compassion, kindness, love, or even interest for their fellow humankind.

Yes, there are many things we conceal from and in our minds. 

But why conceal majestic beauty?   Why surround yourself in concrete?  Why live and work in little square boxes, only to emerge on the rare occasion. And then be frightened by what they see.

I could have sat for seven hours, in that hollow structure temporarily housing my car.  My restless nerves moved my feet, my legs, and my body.  To the River.  The mountain disappeared.

And I saw

In Metta

Footnote: The images of the homeless colony were selected intentionally not to revel the people. I had no permission to publish their faces and I respect their privacy. But there were many people under that bridge.

Rabbit Hole: I made mention of trading that gold pocket watch, that was once my Grandfather’s, for a guitar. I told that story in a couple of my much earlier posts. I believe I took those down once the blog plagiarism struck.

33 thoughts on “The Sacramento River”

  1. You’ve given me a lot to think about, here. I remember my winter of “homelessness,” in my twenties. I didn’t have a place of my own, but kept my stuff in my car and stayed at a friend’s for a few days, another a few weeks, and others’ over the months while I saved money to get another apartment. I was good by summer.
    In recent years, after a decade of struggles after leaving my career, I contemplated living out of my Prius. I googled it. It’s very doable. On cold nights, one can just keep it running, using only a half gallon of gas. With a sleeping bag, I can set the temp pretty low and still be comfortable.
    Gas and food would have been a puzzle. Though I’d have probably picked up work, here and there. At sixty years old, it would have been a big question mark.
    This country doesn’t do well with subsistence living. I’m not sure why. Because we are naturally competitive? Because of taxes and paying our fair share? Because we should contribute to the fiscal system? Maybe there are a limited acceptable routes we should take to be happy? Because homeless people are not to be trusted?
    On another track, in my opinion, there is absolutely no separation between us and the universe. We are little bits of the universe and therefore witnesses of it all, from our own unique contexts.
    The experiences, good and bad, somehow enrich the collective, if you believe in such a thing. But I think it’s possible. In some ways, it helps to qualify every experience I’ve had. Well, it’s the idea of “One.” And though I’ve never seen it, for real, I suspect it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You remind me of time in my 20s when I lived in my 1970 Plymoth Satellite. I spent time in national forests, pawned possessions, and found occasional work. I can remember having 50 cents in my pocket and half a tank of gas but also never being so happy. I agree with your thoughts on the Universe, and all of us being part of “One.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! I had a 70 Plymouth Satellite in my twenties. Three on a tree. Good memories. But I can’t imagine living in it. My mind was pretty foggy then. I just turned sixty. Like so many, throughout history, I’m not really comfortable living in a society that seems to be run on blind tradition.

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  2. So much going on, wonderful to read all this, glad to hear that the swallows are doing well just there, sad that like here, there are homeless people in an affluent world too.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to hear the tide is turning there. There was a well established homeless community on state land between highway intersections here. It was wooded land and they built permanent structures. Weren’t hurting anyone, but the police came in force and tore down their shelters. I have no idea what happened to the people, but we used to get them in the hospital every year with frostbite. The community wants them to disappear but they can’t just keep kicking this issue down the road

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      2. Yes, as much as some people don’t want to see them, believe their issues, or deal with it, they are real, in my case my heart goes out to my fellow beings.

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      3. Our fellow beings appreciate that. I support our food bank here as it’s one of the few charities that doesn’t spend the money on themselves. I give cash to those on the street I see so I’m sure it goes into their pockets, but we need to do a lot more as a community to fix these problems

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      1. A lot better. Every time I read about billions being given away…I fume, The latest one is a 50 billion-dollar package to “save” the chip industry. Google it. Free market? Never has been.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A very manipulated market. All these corporations scream about the free market and supply and demand, but then they want tax breaks and subsidies from our tax dollars. Then they screw us over taking in record profits

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  3. A nice inspiring read, thanks. I have often thought about the contrast between how water wants to meander as it wills, making patterns across the landscape, and our habit of directing creeks and rivers underground in tunnels and culverts in straight lines with parking lots on top of them. Many town and city residents are not even aware of this.

    Shasta: reminded me of “Ishi”, a short book receommended to me by a nice young lady in my last year of university. Memoir of a last surviving native American — sorry I forget the tribe name — in the foothills where the Sacramento River begins. Around 1910 I think, he was finally discovered and came out of hiding, causing an amazing stir among the civilized folk of northern California. Great book, you would dig it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a lot you’ve given us to meditate upon here. Concrete and nature and destitution, both the physical and the spiritual. And the restlessness to be moving. We’re seeing images of tented shanties in the UK now, and what strikes me is everyone carrying on as if it’s normal, and not a sign of something vital that dying in all of us. Beautifully written as always. Hope you got your car fixed up and back on the road. Keep well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michael ! Beauty and ugliness intertwined. It’s pretty sad that images of destitution would become normalized. And so many of our natural lands have been given over to commercialization because people need to “recreate.” Another unraveling I fear. On a positive note, that car has carried me over 250k miles, and with a little patch job is back on the road 😀


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