This journal focuses on the art, history, culture, and wildlands of the northern Big Sur coast. Periodic entries and documents appear at random here.



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Sitting Alone In Jingting Mountain


Flocks of birds fly high and vanish;

A single cloud, alone, calmly drifts on.

Never tired of looking at each other—

Only the Jingting Mountain and me.

                           — Li Bai 699-762




Note: an amazing project connecting ancient Chinese mountain poems with the locations where they were written...

Mountain Songs



Big Sur Film: Gala Finale, Saturday, September 7 at the Golden Gate Theatre

If you missed the Gala Finale of the Big Sur Short Film series last Sunday, September 1, at the Henry Miller Memorial Library sweat. The Grand Finale is re-materializing in an even bigger theatrical (and in-town) setting this coming Saturday night—at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey.

The four finalist films are whimsical, heartbreaking, outlandish, thoughtful, beautiful. In short, exactly the kind of diverse, energizing selections we've come to expect from the series as a whole.

And the venue at the Golden Gate Theatre promises a host of other delightful accompaniments.

Here's the skinny:

The "Town" Event of the Year!

 Join us for the first-ever Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series "Gala" Finale in Monterey*, Saturday, September 7th, at the Golden State Theater!
Food from Happy Girl Kitchen, Wine from Heller Estates, Chocolates from Trader Joe's, Beer from Peter B's Brew Pub, live Music from Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us, the five finalists of our 2013 as chosen by our Jury, and of course, the Grand Prize Winner! 

All of this for only $10! 
Tickets HERE; Facebook event HERE; and please tell all your friends - be a part of history while celebrating all that is good about Monterey County!


Why I'm an oblate...

When I first learned of the Camaldolese, I thought of the three-fold good as an actual map of an actual landscape. And I still think of it that way.

What also interested me from the beginning was the idea of a trail that would lead back and forth between the cloister and the wild.

(That's me in the forest hiking up towards the crest of the Apennines from beyond the open back gate of the Eremo.)

And so at Romuald Duscher's prompting, my friend Steve Chambers and I found the original homestead trail between the Hermitage and Twitchell Flat and then with Romuald and others we cleared and opened that trail again. This meant a direct and open connection between the Hermitage and the Ventana wilderness — such as there had always been for the Salinan people of this coast.

Raimundo Panikaar has said that...

"The salvation of humankind depends upon well-worn paths between huts."

And that has been my own conviction, too — a conviction that's also reflected in the spirit of the Four Winds Council.

Nor have I missed the irony in Dante having his St. Benedict praise Romuald for being a monk who "kept his feet within the cloister" since Dante knew that Romuald wandered everywhere and that when he did settle in a place he generally made sure to establish his own hermitage somewhere outside the monastery's walls.

That was Thomas Merton's intention later in his life, too — to create a "hermitage outside the walls," perhaps even on the Lost Coast of Northern California. It would've been a life that maintained his relationship with his monastery without being physically enclosed within it.

There are moments when I feel as if I'm living part of the life Merton might've lived had he returned from Asia.

And I've also been learning from the Chinese mountain poets that being a mountain poet doesn't mean a quietist withdrawal, but rather that it can be an act of political resistance.

In the mountains I don't feel like I'm getting away from anything (except from some of my own obsessions). Rather I feel that I'm connecting.



It does seem strange that someone who had managed to slip out of this canyon (in favor of the open road) would choose to return to it — if, in fact, that's what this guy has done.

Wynn Bullock, "Stark Tree," 1956.In terms of driving access (as we ourselves know all too well when considering fire emergencies) there's only one distinct way in and out. It would be one thing if the guy was thinking of lighting out into the mountains, but that hasn't been his modus operandi so far. Rather his m.o. has been to flip over stolen cars and license plates so adroitly that he's stayed one step ahead of the vehicle the police are looking for.

Maybe, like Aaron wonders, he knows someone here, or else like Fred suggests, he's found a "hidey hole."

Wynn Bullock, "Worn Floor," 1952.Either way, if indeed (as I type) he has returned, the canyon must seem more capacious, more full of possibilities, than it would to a typical stranger. Another distinct mark of the suspect's m.o. is the way he's staked out remote and sometimes vacant homes (in Sonoma, Ben Lomond, the Soquel hills). If he has returned, maybe that's what's felt more comforting and familiar to this fugitive than a "box canyon" otherwise should feel.

It would be interesting to re-trace the pace of his flight. The brief news accounts read like one fast burn — breaking into remote homes and flipping over stolen cars at a breakneck pace from Sonoma (at least) until here. But does he hole up in a place for awhile when he can? Does he need to catch his breath once in awhile? How much speed is involved?

As I type, maybe he's already barreling down the coast road in another stolen vehicle with flipped license plates that the police don't quite recognize. Or maybe he's hunkered down for a breathing spell and a case of beer in someone's empty cabin.


Boulder Creek Robbery, Burglary Suspect on the Lam After Big Sur Chase

Dimitri Storm Strikes Again; Big Sur on High Alert

"Suspect" — Big Sur Kate.



The story of Christ's passion — told in the poetry of sacred text and music — has the power to open our hearts at their most existential depths.

Tonight on Good Friday, Debi and I attended a beautiful "Tenebrae" service at the Carmel Mission. And so the poem "Tenebrae" by our friend Denise Levertov came back into our hearts as well.


Heavy, heavy, heavy, hand and heart.
We are at war,
bitterly, bitterly at war.

And the buying and selling
buzzes at our heads, a swarm
of busy flies, a kind of innocence.

Gowns of gold sequins are fitted,
sharp-glinting. What harsh rustlings
of silver moiré there are,
to remind me of shrapnel splinters.

And weddings are held in full solemnity
not of desire but of etiquette,
the nuptial pomp of starched lace;
a grim innocence.

And picnic parties return from the beaches
burning with stored sun in the dusk;
children promised a TV show when they get home
fall asleep in the backs of a million station wagons,
sand in their hair, the sound of waves
quietly persistent at their ears.
They are not listening.

Their parents at night
dream and forget their dreams.
They wake in the dark
and make plans. Their sequin plans
glitter into tomorrow.
They buy, they sell.

They fill freezers with food.
Neon signs flash their intentions
into the years ahead.

And at their ears the sound
of the war. They are
not listening, not listening.

            — Denise Levertov, Fall 1967