It probably started with a gulp of salty Bay air
that tasted like a whisper, “come here”
and so my roots settled in Berkeley
fumbling around in the serpentine soil
that I didn’t know was serpentine until a kind professor told me
and so it probably started when I began learning names
of things that belonged to the place
like when I first scratched and sniffed
the zest of California Bay
and when a teacher first told me
on the banks of Strawberry Creek
“that is a redwood!”
Oh, the glory of introduction!
I began to feel twinges of place-love
and I wandered.
I wandered up secret staircases and wound around fire trails
forging new pathways in my spatial consciousness.
When I found one of the tops of the world and all the pieces puzzled together,
I gazed the landscape into my body
and I started bringing friends
and we’d go up in the dark and from there
the ever-bumbling city seemed loveable.
I had never before been able to see the place where I lived from above.
I learned to know community
through protesting the pipeline and singing collective dreams
and studying with classmates and going to meetings and grabbing dinner
I began to feel the specialness
of wandering a place and colliding into familiar faces
exchanging hugs, hellos, happinesses
forming webs of energy
that wind together so tightly that they feel like a blanket
wrapped warm around me, place-love.
When I learned of bioregions and watersheds
– science of connection –
I knew there was an ecology of love
and that I was finding it.
I had a favorite bathroom on the third floor of Wheeler Hall
I could see the Golden Gate from its windows
and I found the exact November day on which the sun set through it
It took some time but I re-calibrated to California seasons
I learned to shriek at the first fall rain
and I learned to wait for it.
Fall became my favorite
and groups of friends would make the pilgrimage
to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass every October in Golden Gate Park
where Emmylou Harris always closes the show in sun-setting lullaby.
And one February I met a special person
And he lived far north so my place stretched open
and began to include slow train rides along the Bay
past the Richmond oil refinery and the Delta wetlands
across the mighty Sacramento River
all the way to the warm lips that I traveled for
the eyes that held my constellations.
He showed me Lassen Volcano and Mount Shasta
and we spent lazy days at Whiskeytown Lake
pine and valley oak landscapes gave me new smells new sights
and every moment felt like the fullest moment
as we found wildness and childness in each other.
This was another love – human love –
that tumbled into dance with my ever-growing place-love.
Berkeley became something new
a lovers’ place
and I shared all of my Berkeley worlds with him
we filled every new empty space we could find with harmonies
sauntered all of my favorite trails til they became ours
slept soundly on redwood duff
smelled every rose[ in the rose garden and chose Spanish Sunset as our favorite
my friends became our friends
and we savored every bite at Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen.
When I traveled back east and to South America
the feeling of missing my place was new and deep
This helped me understand what place-love was
and when I returned I was able to soak in even more.
Berkeley is the jazz music in Cheeseboard pizza
the windy walk down the pier into the bay
the screeching BART to San Francisco
the California Honeydrops playing in a co-op living room
the jam sessions in someone’s bedroom
the city lights from the top of the hill
the snarky comments from Telegraph teenage wanderers
the spooning in a moon-lit bed
the eucalyptus trees and their fire.
Berkeley is the serpentine soil and the rhythm
of urban footsteps pounding into it
the orchestra of wind through Coast live oaks
and symphonies of scientists and street life.
Berkeley taught me to let my soul sink into soil
how to open my chloroplasts
and join the exchange
I learned to inhabit
sang it to the world.