sept 15/RUN

3.5 miles
past the trestle turn around
63 degrees / dripping

Unexpected rain this morning. Waited until 11 to go out for a run. Everything wet. Added 1/2 of distance to one of my classic routes: the trestle turn around. Felt pretty good. A few minutes in, after I reached the river, I started chanting in triple berries: raspberry / strawberry / blueberry. Then I tried to move beyond berries to other triples — mystery, history — but I got stuck.

Running through the tunnel of trees I listened to my shoes squeaking on the wet leaves. squeak squeak I heard the squeak behind me and looked back: no one, just my own echo.

A few minutes later, thunk! — an acorn falling from a tree, landing hard and intact on the pavement.

10 Things

  1. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. lots of dirt and mud kicked up on the edge of the path — maybe from park vehicles’ wheels or from the rain
  3. a smell — something pleasant — green, almost like cilantro, fresh
  4. pale yellow leaves
  5. a coxswain’s voice (female) from below
  6. the only view of the river I had was when I ran under the lake street bridge between the posts
  7. a walker holding a blue umbrella, from a distance I couldn’t tell that they were holding an umbrella. It looked like they were missing a head
  8. the ravine by 35th street overlook: the water was glittering, you could hear it falling out of the sewer pipe, moving down the limestone ledge
  9. more earthy smells — fresh, not sweet
  10. the Welcoming Oaks are turning from green to gold

Gary Snyder and Circumambulation

A few months ago, I came across a reference to Snyder and circumambulation. Now, since I’m studying Snyder and his work for the second half of September, I get the chance to think about it some more. Very cool.

Snyder explained, “The main thing is to pay your regards, to play, to engage, to stop and pay attention. It’s just a way of stopping and looking — at yourself too.” In graduate school at UC Davis in the late 1990s, I studied poetry with Snyder. I learned from him the importance of noticing and naming where I am and what is around me, the concept of bioregionalism.

bioregionalism: noticing and naming where I am and what is around me

I recall encountering the term “bioregionalism” for the first time in Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing. I searched my files and yes!, I found some notes I took:

2 parts:
disengage from attention economy
engage in/from specific place: rootedness, bioregionalism

rooted in a place + in time (as in past, present, future…not always linear)
time/historical and space/ecological (who and what live/d here)

bioregionalism = an awareness of inhabitants AND how they/we are all connected (entangled?), identify as citizens of a bioregion as much as or more than the State

my notes, june 2021

circumambulation: the act of walking in a circle around a object of veneration.

On the morning of October 22, 1965, the Beat Generation poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen stood near this spot [in Muir Woods National Monument, on the Marin Peninsula north of San Francisco] and chanted the Heart Sutra before setting out to consecrate the mountain through ritual circumambulation. That historic walk would be enshrined in Snyder’s poem “The Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais” 


He would later explain his motivation for pioneering the ritual walk: “I felt it was time to take not just another hike on Mt. Tam, the guardian peak for the Bay and for the City — as I had done so many times — but to do it with the intent of circling it, going over it, and doing it with the formality and respect I had seen mountain walks given in Asia.” Starting at Redwood Creek in Muir Woods, the three Beat poets walked clockwise around the mountain, stopping to chant at 10 “stations” — notable spots along the route that were selected spontaneously for what the poets considered their special power — before closing the loop back at the creek.

Circling the Mountain

on ritual and repetition

Without exception, everyone commented on the value of ritual. Lisa Kadyk, a geneticist, said, “I’m not religious, but I do like rituals and recognition of spirituality in a big sense.” Visual artist and environmental field educator Kerri Rosenstein put it this way: “I like the nature of practice. To do something over and over. To train. It requires patience and discipline. I trust that each time offers something new. That we evolve by repeating the same walk as we awaken both to what becomes familiar and to what becomes revealed.” Gifford Hartman had throughout the day played the important role of “sweep,” following us to make certain no one took a wrong turn or needed help. “A ritual is returning to a place,” said Hartman, an English as a second language instructor. “Rituals also reinforce the seasonal cycles of life.”

Circling the Mountain

So many ideas about doing something with my earliest tanka collection, River Running, or my latest Haunts that includes a circumambulation! I just wrote in my Plague Notebook, Vol. 16:

The sacred object I’m circling around: emptiness, open air, the gorge

I really like the idea of doing a circumambulation around the gorge while (or, and then?) writing about it. A brief google search has given me lots of sources to explore, including this one — The Circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais: Limited Series. Wow!

I’ve decided to print out Snyder’s poem about the circumambulation and put it on my desk, under the glass, to study. I did this with Schuyler’s poem, “Hymn to Life” last year and it was very useful and fun.