The International Writers Magazine: California
Where the Clear Creek Narrows
Michael Chacko Daniels
I try to get a glimpse of Pheneger Creek coursing among the giant trees of California’s central coast on Highway One; the 22 Big Sur bus stops at the River Inn and Motel.
The sad-eyed man gets off, wispy grey hair flying in the afternoon wind.
The poor man; he has come all the way from Monterey just to have Sunday lunch.
The little bus hurtles on.
The hills that were on fire two years ago glow with yellow flowers.
Four miles south, the 22 Big Sur stops below a small hill where the Nepenthe Restaurant and Phoenix Shop perch, hidden from view among the trees. The driver says he’ll turn around and head back to Monterey in 20 minutes. After that the day’s last bus will arrive in two hours.
I climb the stairs into the trees in a jiffy and I say to the sales clerk, whose silver hair stands out among the Phoenix’s gold and red threads from across the seven seas: “Those flowers, those hills—what a remarkable sight.”
“Yes, we think so, too,” she says and puts a Buddhist prayer flag into a Phoenix paper bag.
The sad-eyed man reboards the 22 bus at the River Inn on our return trip.
“That was a short visit,” someone says.
“I sat on a chair in the river and soaked my feet for 20 minutes,” he says.
Was this his very own Ganges moment? Is he a bit off-kilter?
“It was very relaxing,” he says, as if he senses my doubts.
“Weren’t you afraid the chair and you would float away?”
“The river’s less than two feet deep there. I like to come and soak my feet.”
Over the last 20 years, avoiding the River Inn’s blisters on the ancient redwoods, I’ve only had glimpses of Pheneger Creek from the bus.
Next day, I’m back to enjoy the wild mustard and sticky monkey flowers on the hills that knew fire. And to feel the little river of the man who rides the 22 for about three hours to soak his feet for 20 minutes.
I skirt the inn and country store and find the creek. I step down a slope to test the temperature before wading to the chair, which sits still, as if it has all of forever in the flowing stream.
Is gravity real? My left buttock encounters a rock, my right palm an ancient root.
~ ~ ~
I recall the sales clerk saying:
“The first year after the fire, the hills were full of California poppies.”
~ ~ ~
I laugh and move on. “Wonderful,” I tell myself, “to be like the hills and the stream bubbling past the rocks and trees.”
~ ~ ~
The clear creek narrows—
where planks lie on rippled rocks
and ancients whisper
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael Chacko Daniels is a former community worker and clown who grew up in Bombay, India. His past adventures include five years as a Volunteer In Service To America, four as editor/publisher of the New River Free Press of Grand Rapids, MI, and 16 running the Jobs for Homeless Consortium. During his years at Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living he edited and designed The Architecture of Independence series. He lives and works in San Francisco. His writing has appeared in Apollo's Lyre, Cricket Online Review, Denver Syntax, dragonfire, Eclectica, Grey Sparrow Journal, Hackwriters, Popular Ink, Quicksilver, SHALLA Magazine, and The Battered Suitcase. Writers Workshop, Calcutta, has published four of his books: Split in Two (Poetry, 2004), Anything Out of Place Is Dirt (Novel, 2004), That Damn Romantic Fool (Novel, 2005), and Morning in Santiniketan (Haiku, 2010). Website: http://indiawritingstation.com/
© M C Daniels Feb 2011