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December 2006, vol 2 no 4

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Frances Ruhlen McConnel

Mendocino

Near evening and my friend and I walk across the neighbors' land to get to the cliffs and the Pacific, because we have not yet read the book of instructions in the neighbor's summer house our hostess has rented for her guests' stay, nor the sign that says "Whatever You Do, Do Not Walk Across The Neighbor's Land To The Cliffs!" Because the neighbor owns those cliffs and the little blue flowers beneath our feet in the pungent drying mown grass, and the pink flowers too and the yellow ones.

out from pines' shade, gilia
star darkening fields.
swish of the lighthouse beam

He also owns the grotto below where giant waves swoop in and pour out and a thin arc of waterfall scatters, and the antifreeze green of moss on wet granite and the arch scooped by surf, where water circles and grapples with itself, and the island of stone Nancy calls "omphalos"—navel of Delphi, center of Apollo's world.

We feel how secret and mystical is this place, even not hearing yet of its taboo; though, when we walk further to the point and look back, we can see our omphalos is no singular rock but attached to the other bank (which is also forbidden) as with an umbilicus.

moon claims tide,
tide claims shore,
who, the curvature of earth?

Coming back, we are set upon by a lab and a black terrier, chased off course, so we must crash through strange woods and thistles, to come, startled, to our hostess's house, from around back, where we struggle through a gap in the deer fence. Inside, the party, having started without us, surges over our mystery.

wine and flashlight spot
bobble us back downhill.
the swoon of surf

To dream of Cerberus, though that grotto is no Hades, and to wonder if the guardians of that sacred spot are greedy, presumptuous, arrogant, like all of us, or are they holy?