New Year’s Day 2009

New Year’s morning the rising sun kindled pea vines that grasped the bent bamboo stakes over the vegetable bed.


At 8:45, my teaching partner Jim and student activist friend Eric arrived to join Jan and me for a ride to the Guadalupe Dunes, site of the 25th annual New Years Day hike originated by Bill Denneen and this year organized in his honor by Kara B., San Luis Obispo’s first lady of Land Conservancy.


More than 40 people showed up including 85 year old Bill, son and grandchildren.  The further south we went, the more pristine and dramatic the landscape, low dunes giving way to taller ones sloping steeply down to the ocean, gradually revealing longer stretches of coast and Coast Mountains, the small human settlements in appropriate proportion to the immense land, sea and sky.


We stopped at a hollow where Liz Scott-G., founder of the Dunes Center,  pointed out strawberry leaves poking through the bare sand which are harvested for seed by commercial strawberry growers in the Santa Maria valley to produce new hybrids every few years as the old ones succumb to insects and fungal diseases.



Bill read from his letter to the Tribune entitled “Drop Condoms not Bombs,” which had appeared that morning. He paid tribute to his mentor Kathleen Goddard Jones, who had saved these dunes from the nuclear power plant that was planned there forty years ago. Unfortunately she was unable to prevent the utility company from constructing it at Diablo Canyon at the north end of the bay, or the State from developing the noisy and destructive off-road vehicle recreation area on the beach near Oceano.


Bill recited his favorite poem, “Invictus,” and others read poems blessing the place and welcoming the New Year.


Then the group spread out again and moved higher and southward toward the headland.


I hung back photographing a lone fisherman above the spray and the arches of Mussel Rock and I collected pieces of obsidian flaked here by prehistoric California dwellers.


Jan went ahead along a precarious trail she told me later caused her vertigo, holding Jim’s hand above her head as if in a twirling minuet while he distracted her with bardic song.


Turning a corner we came around the Point and gazed down upon the radiant expanse of Paradise Beach and the silouetted outline of Point Sal at its southernmost tip.


There we remained for snacks and sand play and relaxation that blended into exultation.


On the way back led we tumbled down sand cliffs to the low road along the beach.



I walked through shallow water at the edge of the surf to narrow my capillaries and get used to the temperature, greeting curlew and gulls.


I caught up with Jim, who guarded my clothes while I wallowed rather than swam in the super turbulent water.  As the parking lot emptied, Cal and Rosemary agreed to join the four of us for a late lunch in one of Guadalupe’s fabled Mexican restaurants.


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