Monday, March 9, 2009

Seeking dryads

Feeling restless again today, so I hopped into my sneakers and set off for a walk across the street into Sausal Creek for a mini-hike. I figured I'd go for the longer circuit, down to the bottom of the gully and along Creek Bed Trail.

It's been raining for about 2 weeks straight. Yesterday and today feel like the first sunny clear days in ages. Just past the stand of unchecked cilantro-gone-wild, there is a newly fallen oak across the path. It's a sad sight. It looks like the same thing that happened to the giant that used to guard the spot directly across the street from my house. Water-logged roots ripping up from the ground to topple the tree down the steep slope.

I straddle the trunk as I climb over it. Pause for a moment from that perch to look up to the freeway on one side, and down to the ivy shrouded creek below. The trunk is completely dry. The mossy covering is soft, made of springy green curls.

Dryads on the mind for the next chapter of the book I'm working on. I wonder what strange melding of cultivated and wild, organic and straight-edged concrete, steel struts and flowing water creature would have spawned in Sausal Creek surrounds.

Eventually I get to the bottom. I realize that my plan was rather short-sighted. A path named "Creek Bed Trail" necessarily means you'll be walking along a creek bed. Which was hidden under about a foot of running water after all the rain. I'm optimistic, and in the new mud I notice many other sets of sneaker footprints. Someone else has been here. Maybe if they were successful....

In the summertime it's barely a trickle. More like a leaky faucet than an actual creek. By comparison to that today, it's about as passable as a whitewater rapid. After hopping precariously around on slippery stones peeking up through the flow and almost toppling in, I have to concede that it's not going to happen, at least, not without some waterproof rubber boots. Reluctantly, I climb back up the way I came. I usually like the variety of a full circle, but I do like my dry shoes even more.

I'm half watching to see if I can catch sight of the condor Dana and I glimpsed the other day, sitting out on a branch not twenty feet off the trail. For all I had ever seen one in the wild prior to then, it might as well be as mythical as dryads, or unicorns (or as my brother's old boss was fond of saying, "the sun, in San Francisco's Sunset District". He did have a point there.... Someone must have felt a tinge of irony when they dubbed it that).

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Speaking of seeking....

I took a fancy to the kodama in Miyazaki's film Princess Mononoke. So I started hunting around for some more legitimate source for the folklore of them, coming up with a big empty nothing, aside from some websites saying it means "echo" or "spirit of the trees".

Vague references to folktales of kodama, but no actual folktales. I even asked Japanese friends and acquaintances if anyone had ever heard of kodama stories, some of them living in and growing up in Japan, but alas nothing at all.

If anyone reading this knows of any tales, feel free to share with me.

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Some more Fantastical Visions IV previews:


  1. Your concrete, organic, steel strutted dryad sounds like perfect fodder for an urban fantasy story.
    It seems to me that seeing wild things grow in places where human development is so heavy handed is very comforting. But, I haven't decided if that is because of the unconquerable spirit of nature, or comfort from the false sense of control that people believe they have over nature... that we can still enjoy it in a place we believe to have dominion over... like a creek running through a big city.

  2. I think it can be even as simple as being in touch with a little bit of nature. Having it flow out from the gaps in the surroundings that can't quite contain it all. I know when I was Tokyo several years back, I just started to feel trapped and claustrophobic because it seemed like the concrete enclosure of the world was perfect and complete.

  3. On the kodamas, I read once that the kind of googly-heade design that Miyazaki used was inspired by the patterns that water drops make on a camera lens when they reflect light. I tried to find the article with the pcitures but couldn't =(

  4. OK, so this really bothered me that I couldn't immediately find what I half-remembered, so I did some more looking & finally found it. Reason it was so hard to find is it's in Japanese:

    Still does not really address the story behind it, but I thought it was pretty cool to see pics of real life kodamas.