In the Cave Behind the Waterfall (Rainbow Home #3)

creekIn the last few days, I’ve had quite a few adventures up in the forest above the village. Here’s an abridged version to give you taste of what has happened.

I have caught several glimpses of the Fire Dragon. A tail here. Smoke there. Tip of a wing there. All usually through thick brush or the canopy of trees. Never did I see his full form, but at least I knew it wasn’t just my imagination.

I realized, though, that I had misinterpreted the 7th-born Rabbit’s message. I thought that it meant the Fire Dragon only appears when it is silent. In fact, it appears frequently in the presence of noise, even when people are around. But to ENCOUNTER the Fire Dragon in its true form, I would need to find its cave, which he said was behind a waterfall. And if I did found it, I would have to be absolutely quiet.

I’ve walked the entire length of Redwood Creek, from the beginning on the west slope of the ridge down and southward until it empties into Upper San Leandro Reservoir. Along the way I met an owl, a heron, a snake, a little lizard with a dragonfly in its mouth, beautiful horsetail ferns, the leg bone of some animal, and the largest madrone tree I’ve ever seen. So sexy.

You know what they say, if you’re not turned on by a madrone, you can’t be turned on by anything.

But nowhere did I see a cave of any kind. Saw a few hollows along the banks of the creek, but no cave, let alone one big enough for some dragon the size of an elephant. Am I in the right place? Maybe 7th-Born meant some other place? Afterall, a dragon can cover territories much larger than this park, as large as it is.

This morning I sauntered once again along Redwood Creek. Lo and behold I encountered 14 more rabbits and 6 little yellow golden birds. I’ve never seen yellow birds here before, so I took it as a sign. Maybe I should go to the Great Sea, as 7th-Born Bunny recommended. Whether I would find the HeartSeer or not, or find some clue to how to enter the depths of the water and recover the Obsidian Key on the Golden Ring, I had no idea.

With that I resolved to at least try. But in order to do that I felt I had to find the Dragon and to keep looking for its cave.

I have been learning from the redwoods that it is in silence that i can hear the true things.

I sat down next to a grandmother circle of redwoods and closed my eyes. For what seemed like hours, I settled into the ancient dialect of the forest. When I finally opened my eyes, I saw a yellow bird hovering directly in front of me. A seventh?! That can’t be a coincidence.

Out of curiosity I stood up and began to follow it.

From branch to branch it flitted forward, deeper into the forest. Clearly aware I was following it, it waited each time so I could catch up.

I heard it before I saw it: water. Hopping up on a large moss-covered boulder, I saw a water fall, 15 or so feet, tumbling down from a tributary of Redwood Creek, into a wide and deep pool formed by sandstone on all sides.

Aha! So it IS here!

The yellow bird fluttered up beside the falls and perched on a bay laurel branch that extended just to the edge of the water.

With my adrenaline pumping, I leaped from one boulder to the other up the sides, grabbing fists of rock and gnarled root and branches, until I was almost to the top. Seeing a slight ledge led behind the falls, I took off my daypack, took out my headlamp and knife, and proceded to inch along. The force of the water was fierce, and I grabbed on tight to whatever I could feel, as I couldn’t see, having to keep my eyes closed from the water pressure.

Soon I was completely soaked, but instead of a solid cliff, my hands felt emptiness, so with a trust in leaping, I threw myself into the cavity and found myself in the dimly-lit entrance to a cave.

“Well, I’m here. Nothing to do but keep going,” I thought to myself, making sure I was as quiet as possible.

I had only a knife for protection. But what could a knife possibly do to the mail-plated skin (I’m assuming) of a dragon? Neverless, I resolved to keep my knife.

I entered the cave. Taking a few steps, and turning a corner, what remained of the daylight world beyond the waterfall began to disapear. I pressed the button on my headlamp.

Nothing. Now, of all times, the batteries are dead!

It’s too dark. And I hear what sounds like low roar, echoing from deep within the mountain. Only a fool what go into a cave without a light!

I lost my nerve and rushed out towards the water. In the process, I hit my hand on a jutting rock, knocking my knife out of my hands, hearing it drop with a thud on the cave floor.

So much for silence.

What am I doing?! I have no idea what kind of creature this is. I’m only looking for this damn dragon because I was told by a woman I didn’t even know that I needed to ride it to the edge of Always to find my Rainbow Home. Under the full moon of all things.

But the full moon is past now, come and gone without incident. Or, according to 7th-Born Rabbit, I have to visit HeartSeer by the Great Sea to recover the Obsidian Key. Either way, I have no mode of transportation.

How am I to fly to the Great Sea, let alone to the edge of Always? I could walk instead, like I do. I don’t mind Walking. But How far is it?

Could I hitchhike? Steal a horse? LYFT it? As an absolute last resort, I could take Greyhound.

None of those sounded very appealing. Some, rather far-fetched.

No, it must be this way or no way. I’ve done the easy thing before. No, it’s time for the neccessary thing. 7th-Born had said it will either melt me or I will melt it.

I steel myself, take a deep breath, and head back in to the cave.

Without weapon. Without light. Unadorned and vulnerable and scared out of my mind. The time has come.

As I turn the first corner into darkness, I hear that awful sound again. sounds less like a roar than a combination of a snore and groan. Perhaps it is sleeping. Could I be so lucky?

It’s pitch black. I turn another corner, with only my hands on the cold, clammy cave walls to guide me. For all I know, I could be walking into a bottomless abyss, a nest of brown recluses, or get irretrievably lost. No one would ever find me! My pack would be found someday by intrepid explores. Perhaps.

But what are those risks in comparison with facing a Fire Dragon! I can’t believe I just said that. Perhaps this is all a wild goose chase. Or wild dragon chase, as it were.

Then, suddenly two glowing red-orange embers the size of volleyballs appear before me.

Eyes!

I’m flooded simultaneously with as much awe as fear, as much fascination as pure dread.

It’s here! I’m here! I froze.

The eyes cast an eerie flicker across the walls of the cave, causing shadows to dance.

I see that the narrow cave tunnel had opened up into a stone chamber the size of a cabin.

And then I realize, what I hear is not a roar or a snore, but a cry. A dragon cry. It is wounded.

From the red-orange ember-eye light reflecting off the walls, I see the source of the pain: A dagger pierced it, just below where the wing attaches to its torso.

Suddenly, whatever fear I had disappears.

Now what? I’m here. I made it. I’m not torn to pieces. I’m not melted. Yet.

I could do nothing but just be there with it in its pain.

I slowly reached my hand out and lay it near the wound.

I whisper in its ear.

“I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

As powerful as it was, as big as it was, it was apparent that it could not reach the area where the dagger went in with its talons nor its mouth.

I knew that I had to pull the dagger out.

I grabbed the black ornate handle with both hands.

“This is going to hurt. I’m here to help.”

A pulled back as hard as I could and with a grunt and one full action, yanked the dagger out.

The dragon jumped and hissed in burnt steel agony. Fire and smoke filled the chamber,

The heat seemed to sear my flesh. I cowered in the corner, but couldn’t escape it and began to choke on the smoke filling my lungs.

Then, I had the idea: The pool at the base of the cave.

Before I could think about it too much, I yelled, “Follow me!!” And began running out.

I headed back towards the entrance, this time with the aid of the glow of dragon eyes lighting the way close behind me.

It was following me. I saw my knife on the floor from earlier. I quickly bent down to pick it up and kept running. Taking a big gulp of hot air, I ran and jumped straight through the back of the falls. In a split second, I plunged directly in the pool below, knife in one hand, dagger in the other.

When I came up for air and was relieved to find that I still had skin. The cool water felt invigorating. And the cool air was a welcome relief in my lungs. I looked back up, and saw just a long dragon head sticking out through the waterfall. Almost comical if it wasn’t so freaking bizarre.

I encouraged it: “Jump!”

“Dragons don’t go in water!” It spoke, in a language I didn’t know but somehow understood.

“Well, grown ass human beings don’t hunt fire dragons!” I screamed back.

“Jump in!”

Evidently convincing, the remainder of his giant body emerged through the falls, and not without grace for such an unwieldly large body, landed in the pool with an explosion of water.

It sent me reeling, and forced me back below the water for longer than even my jump had. When I came up, rather than seeing a dragon in the pool beside me, I saw a little boy. Brown hair with bright brown eyes.

“Thank you for coming,” he said with a smile, seemingly unaware of what just happened.

You can imagine the trouble I had finding words in response.

“And for pulling the dagger out,” he said.

Still stunned at what had happened in the previous hour, I said nothing. My face no doubt revealed my shock.

“And for not trying to kill me with that knife of yours.”

“No problem?” I managed.

With that, the boy, who I estimated to be about 12 or 13 years old, began diving and splashing and playing.

“Hey!” I yelled. I had too many questions, which I rattled off, one falling on top of the other. “Who are you? What happened to the dragon? Who stabbed you? How long have you had that sticking in you? What is going on?!”

He just laughed and began splashing me.

“A story for the sky, perhaps?”

“What?” My eyes must have widened even more than they already had.

In an instant the boy transformed back into a dragon, flapped his enormous translucent wings, picked me up in its talons, and took to flight.

To the Great Sea it is then.

 

The Silence Beyond

Silence beyondI sit at the feet of the tall ones
Apprenticing to redwoods
to learn an ancient dialect

Sitting in circle:

Grandmother teaches stillness
Owl sings lullabies
Bird tells stories
Creek gently trickles

In time, the chirps settle down
Gurgles fall away
even that high-pitched tale from the treetop of my head,
that strange frenzy
loses all energy

the canyon is at peace

Yet beyond that
in the cave behind the waterfall
I hear the language of Deep Time
Where even words of wisdom
are mere distant echoes on the wall

In the grammar of stillness
A patient heart seed
takes a cosmic breathe
and I hear it
closer than my own heartbeat:

the silence beyond sound

Stalking the Fire Dragon (Rainbow Home #1)

IMG_4823I’ve been living in the pine, madrone, bay, oak, and redwood forests in the hills above the village. Walking, I’ve come to know the land quite a but. Also, I’ve been tracking a fire dragon.
Not to kill, but to catch a ride. This isn’t your typical dragon like Pete had, fluffy with moon eyes. But the kind with steel talons that can rip you in two and burn you to ashes with eyes of fire.
I caught a glimpse of his hard-plated tail yesterday. If I see him again, my plan was to attempt to ride him tonight under the Full Thunder Moon and fly to the edge of Always to reclaim my Rainbow Home.
However, yesterday I was informed by a circle of 6 wild bunnies (neighbors of mine), that the edge of Always is also the edge of Never, and it’s filled with impenetrable darkness and dryness.
“No one can survive that long without light or water.”
Besides, they added, even if I manage to find the Fire Dragon, and even if I somehow survived the encounter, and even if I somehow was able to ride it, I would not be able to just walk into my Rainbow Home anyway, as a lock has been installed.
They said the key to the lock, the Obsidian Key on the Golden Ring, was lost. Last they heard, it had been thrown into the Great Sea, and by now surely it had drifted far below and sunken to depths of the deep trench at the bottom of the sea, never to be recovered again.
How my rainbow home was originally lost is a different tale, but suffice it to say that it was stolen by an Evil King of Pain, a twisted one-eyed dwarf who is a genius of fear in his own right. The circle of rabbits knew of this Evil King and said some say that he is not a dwarf at all, but an undead spirit with the mask of a one-eyed dwarf. Some say he has a thousand masks, for himself and for those who would wish to hide from their true selves. No one knows his true face. He merely collects homes and masks, not to live in or wear himself, but to entice other people for exorbitant piles of gold. Some say he gets an obscene amusement from scaring people into getting houses and masks that are not their own, and watching them writhe in struggle trying to get out of the house or get the masks off. No one knows where he really lives. Yet others say he is just a legend.
All this about the Key and the Dwarf King I learned from the circle of bunnies.
As you can imagine, I felt stunned and deflated. I resolved to just enjoy what was in front of me, namely dragonflies, the lesser known distant relatives of dragons. They had come out at dusk to dance over the rattlesnake grass on the warm winds of the east.
They shouted at me, “Come out and play!”
Shouted is an exaggeration – in reality, it was a whisper. And dragonflies’ whsipers are particularly sweet and high. I could barely hear them at first, but once my ears were opened by the wind, it was all I could hear.
So with my grand plans halted, with a shrug I got out my flute and ukelele and we danced and played and we all drank sunset and moonrise until we had our fill.
At one minute before midnight, the almost-full moon cast a gorgeous haunting light upon the forest. Then it halted, suspended midair, an eye on the world.
Suddenly a rabbit hopped out from behind the blackberry brush.
A seventh?!
“Some of what my dear family told you was mostly true. But there is far more to the story than that. Excuse them, for they don’t know, because they don’t get much beyond this patch of land.”
Honestly, I was tired and not really in the mood for more tall tales.
“I don’t know what to believe. All I know is I saw the dragon’s tail today and I’m determined to find my Rainbow Home,” I said. Then ventured to ask, “Why are you not in the circle with your six siblings?”
“It is true, the Fire Dragon will take you. It can be found, but not caught. It can be ridden, but not owned. It will melt you or you will melt it. He oft sleeps in the cave behind the waterfall. If you find him there, you must not make a sound. Not a single footstep or breath. Silence is his abode. If you startle it, before you know it, he will be aflight beyond your grasp. However, while it is true that the edge of Always is also the edge of Never, it is not impenetrable darkness and dryness. Rather, it is nearly unbearable light. For those without eyes of power, it must seem to be pure darkness, for fear that one’s eyes will burn away. It is also true that a lock has been installed on the Rainbow Home. Even if you find it, you can merely see it, but not enter inside. As my brothers and sisters told you, the Obsidian Key on the Golden Ring was thrown into the Great Sea. But it CAN be recovered. For a price.” He explained, whiskers whiskering.
He added, “I was the 7th born. There was not enough to eat in the patch where I was raised. I have roamed ever wider circles since I was but a bunny pup. Besides, there is but One Circle.”
“But I’m from the flat lands,” I said. “I know nothing of the Great Sea! Let alone the bottom of the sea. Let alone one circle or edges and golden rings and eyes burning up. Over many years, I have learned to be a man of the mountain, but of the ocean, I am a stranger,” I said. “Even if I could swim underwater, I have no gold to give. If the key is there, it must remain. And I will resolve to live without my Rainbow Home. I have survived long enough and happily enough without it.”
“You can learn the sea, as you learned the mountains. And soon, you will also learn the heat and emptiness of the desert,” the 7th-Born Bunny said.
“What!? How do you know me or what I will do?! I will not go to the sea. I am not…”
But he continued, “That is up to you. But should your Rainbow Home still beckon to you, Go to the edge of the West and find the HeartSeer, a creature equal parts water, fire, earth, and air. There you will find the next step to discovering the key to reclaiming your Rainbow Home.
But you must bring gifts: A gift unmade, a gift unplayed, a gift undone, a gift unstrung.”
“What?!!!” I yelped.
With that, the rabbit disappeared into the rattlesnake grass and the moon resumed its course. I went to sleep in a hot wind from the valley from the east invading my dreams and the cooling winds of the sea calling.
(All this to say, I’ve been getting to know the land pretty well.)

Forest Poet

forest poetThey’re casting for the role of forest poet

I wanna play the part
weaving words like vines
that look into the face of love and fear
among the redwood trees

it’s only slightly mad

not on any high school
career-planning curriculum
college major quiz
or drop-down menu

I wanna play the part
of the forest poet

have morning tea
with animal allies
and titillating conversations
with flowing creeks

Notice how the light
and shadow dance together
playing tricks
on the leaves of
unfurling ferns

compose poems
as medicine
for a world caught up

a bit strange
they say

stranger than sports fans rioting
black friday madness
or making gas-powered leaf-blowers,
landmines,
or little plastic scented trees for cars?

so let others play the part of
politician, programmer,
engineer, janitor,
office manager, military officer,
designer, carpenter,
athlete, mailman,
gadget-maker.

They’ve all got their place.

It’s just that I wanna play the part
of the forest poet

I wonder, is it needed any less?

Erotic Love Haikus From and For the Forest

WP_20160102_005Tiny poems of love to redwoods, creeks, fungi, and the exquisite essence of the forest. I kicked off 2016 with a week in the woods.

1)a redwood romance:
is there a more awesome way
to start the new year?

2)My heart jumped with joy
when i saw your spongy form
wish i knew your name.

3)damn, i love your curves
the way you work that water
makes me come to you

4)wet woodland carpet:
never smelled something so sweet
that wasn’t a girl.

5)Hi tall red stranger,
seduce me with your stillness
as our skin touches

6)your reds are richer
than your greens are greener than
the moistest meadow

7)you wear no garments
standing naked on the hill
exposed to the wind.

how can i resist
touching your sexy smooth skin,
Madam Madroña?

8)I cannot see you
But I hear your nightly hymns
WHO serenades me?

9)if you would let me
i’d breathe you in all day long
and caress you all night

10)like long lost lovers
embrace after a season.
nothing outside this

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