A photo essay from organizing the 50th year anniversary circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais, after poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen made their historic walk in 1965.
This past weekend, I organized the 50th year celebration of the circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco, California. On October 22, 1965, Beat poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen ceremonially walked around Mount Tamalpais to “open the mountain,” and pay respect to their local bioregion. The three stopped at 8 self-designed stations along this 14-mile loop to conduct prayer and mantra.
Since the historic circumambulation, a dedicated group from the area have done this ritual walk every solstice and equinox, starting and finishing at Muir Woods National Monument. The leader of the tradition, Matthew Davis, (co-author of Opening the Mountain) recently died, so this walk was also a celebration of his life and dedication to place and practice. His son, Oren, led the circumambulation in his honor.
Here are some photos from this incredible day, paired with words from The Living Mountain by Nan Shepard, an absolute lyrical masterpiece. Organizing this circumambulation was part of a larger creative project, and an article will be coming out January 2016 for the inaugural issue of We Move Magazine. Stay tuned.
May such place-based traditions continue, and with their continuation may they remind us to slow, to inhabit our local woods and hills with greater intimacy, curiosity, and humility. May we continue to develop our kinship with ever-revolving change.
“The talking tribe, I find, want sensation from the mountain — not in Keat’s sense. Beginners, not unnaturally, do the same — I did myself. They want the startling view, the horrid pinnacle — sips of beer and tea instead of milk. Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.”
“For the most appalling quality of water is its strength. I love its flash and gleam, its music, its pliancy and grace, its slap against my body; but I fear its strength. I fear it as my ancestors must have feared the natural forces that they worshipped. All the mysteries are in its movement. It slips out of holes in the earth like the ancient snake.”
“What! am I such a slave that unless my flesh feels buoyant I cannot be free? No, there is no more in the lust for a mountain top than a perfect physiological adjustment. What more there is lies within the mountain. Something moves between me and it. Place and mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered. I cannot tell what this movement is except by recounting it.”