Bay Nature magazineJanuary-March 2011

Art and Design

On Mount Diablo

January 1, 2011

Here, the sedimentary rocks
of the town where I was raised
lift up, the layers of ancient seabed
exposed in ridges running left to right,
time turned on its side–
Eocene, Miocene, Pliocene.

At this height, the twilight rises,
a tidal shadow deepening
the cold of the cloudless atmosphere,
sharpening the view until it seems
every level is visible, beginning
with an ordinary puddle.

This shallow rain-filled basin
is a dish for living algae, a colony
caught on a monolithic hump,
the back of the sandstone whale
sounding the depths of the dark
shales that surround us.

Beyond, a solitary hawk
sits silhouetted on a prow of rock,
listening for the soft-footed mice
to slip from chaparral. A frieze
of oak trees holds black limbs still
in the winter solstice air.

Far below, the minuscule windows
are jewels on glowing webs,
luminescent growth in the valley of
a hundred thousand, their tide of
streetlights and headlights rising up
the mountain where I stand.

It’s getting late, and the keys
are already in my hand, but before
I make the steep drive back,
the surface of that transient puddle
takes the firmament of galactic fire
and lays it at my feet.

About the Author

Bay Area native William Keener, formerly the director of the Marine Mammal Center, works as an environmental lawyer and is cofounder of Golden Gate Cetacean Research, ggcetacean.org.Golden Gate Cetacean Research is a nonprofit organization led by a team of marine mammal researchers: William Keener, Isidore Szczepaniak, Jonathan Stern, and Marc Webber. Collaborators include the California Academy of Sciences, the Marine Mammal Center, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Romberg Tiburon Center, Okeanis, and the Oceanic Society.

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