Walking early morning light.
Bunchgrass tufts still wet with dew.
Mist lurking off the cliffs.
I find shell mounds beside the footpath.
A midden vein of crumbling bone
exposed. Cut into. This is all
that’s left of Jojopan.
on the south bank bluffs
of the Big Sur River.
the Rumsens called it,
lost village of the Esselen.
A people gone like grizzly.
Mysterious ones. Shamans
who carved their secrets into rock
along Church Creek. Who painted red
& black mosaics. Sun discs. Winged gods
who flew across the sandstone.
In a cave near Tassajara
a wall of hands. A cloud of white
prints dancing on stone
hints at some forgotten rite.
Solstice. Moonlight. Initiates
pressing skin against rock
& the rock remembering.
Here above the river beach. Deserted
bluffs. Scavenger gulls wailing in the wind.
I kneel beside whitened clams.
Ash-black soil sprinkled with musselshell.
Upstream past a grove of eucalyptus
I can see the old adobe of the English
sea captain who married his señorita
& homesteaded a Mexican land grant
in the delta terrace of the Rio Grande Sur.
New shingles gleam in the sunlight.
Roof & walls carefully restored:
“an historical site worth saving…”
The land around it also saved. Protected.
Fenced in. The signs say
Molera State Park
named for a wealthy dairy rancher
famous for his parties and jack cheese.
Beyond the adobe
there at the feet of the Santa Lucias
I can see Hwy. One as it swings east
slicing through the Esselen homeland,
its paved serpentine crowded
with scenic landmarks & historical markers
with parking lots full of sports cars & Coupe de Villes
with private healing spas & off-limit hot springs
with rustic cafes serving Big Sur burgers
with bookstore fishnets sporting their spring catch of pulp
with roadside stands of redwood burl table tops going cheap
with acres of Ticketron campsites booked solid
with landscape galleries framing the impossible
with gas stations pumping dinosaur oil
with smokeybear rangers landing in whirlybirds
with retired dentists from Pasadena wheeling by in their
& not a thing to tell you that
a people lived here
kiskit na mismap
thousands of years
the language of dreams.
There is nothing.
The writer is Art Goodtimes – a member of the Board of Commissioners, San
Miguel County, Colorado. His family came to Santa Cruz in 1795.
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