Friday, July 16, 2010

Gold In My Forest

 On this week's visit to San Francisco (pang! pang! pang!), a friend took me for a drive through the Presidio, a sacred forest that was my personal backyard for nine years. He wanted to show me the many changes that had taken place since I'd left four years ago. Mainly, he wanted me to see the complete upgrade of Rob Campground, once the site of our famous "Camping in the City" parties, which I'd co-hosted with my roomie, Michelle.

 This was in 1997-98,  shortly after the Army had handed over the 1,480-acre piece of land to the National Park Service. Until then, the Presidio had been a fortified military base for 219 years and the NPS didn't start changes until the last seven years or so. I'd smugly hike through its woodsy terrain every day after work while the SF masses thronged to Muir Woods or Golden Gate Park. And other than the occasional sign warning me about buried mustard gas, I loved every inch of my secret forest. (Ironically, it was there I made the decision to move to Colorado.)

 Our 'Camping' parties were held at a scruffy site with a few BBQs and a log-encircled fire pit. Located less than a mile from our city apartment, we encouraged people to show up in cabs, with Starbucks and pizzas, just to get as much mileage out of the joke as we could. People would come in straight from business meetings in the city, delighting in the escape, and stay to sing songs and explore old Army forts.
In addition to a fabulous ocean view, the NPS generously provided firewood. They also informed M & I that we were pioneers - among the very first citizen campers on the site. They talked to us on the phone and sent us surveys, desperately wanting our feedback.

These days, Rob Campground is a full-service site, complete with cement walkways, helpful map signs and fancy showers. I hardly recognized it. I was happy for the kids who were running around that day but sad to see so much concrete where dirt once thrived. Still, I felt a certain pride knowing that my friends and I had essentially broke ground there.

Then, on the drive back, something grand caught my eye. "What is that????" I desperately wanted to know and made the car's driver seek it out. I was drawn to it like a monkey to a black obelisk. At first I thought it was natural but then it looked too ... purposeful.

I photographed the hell out of it until I could flag down an NPS dude who could provide an explanation. And then he said those magical words: "Have you ever heard of Andy Goldsworthy?" 


Here's the thing. Not only have I heard of Mr. Goldsworthy - a world renowned environmental artist - but for many years, I would give Andy Goldsworthy books as wedding gifts. This is a man who goes into nature and creates mind-numbing works of art using no tools and no other materials than what he finds there. I am NUTS for his work. NPS dude said he called it "Spire" although I prefer my friend's title: "Log Rocket."

And here, right before me, was a gen-u-ine Goldsworthy in my beloved forest. I couldn't believe it. Only my magical forest could provide me with such a perfect welcome home. Best part? No cement walkways.


Lisa said...

LOVE this post. Oh the memories...
Those camping parties were such fun.

ClizBiz said...

And you were such a big part of them, Lisa! Those were the days ...

Mark Dowdy said...

So, um, are you still coming to THE CITY in August, or did I just miss that banana boat?

Anonymous said...

I did take a cab to the campsite. It was super fun to check out of the city hustle and hang out with friends by the fire...
I also remember the fog horns and raccoons fighting all night!
So glad to have been apart of Camping in the City!


Heidi's heart said...

I remember how you showed me your special tree, the tree that you hugged every day on your walk.

I have long been a Goldsworthy fan too. I often recommended that my students rent "Rivers and Tides."

ClizBiz said...

Glad you remembered the tree! Also, I'm embarrassed to say that I have never seen 'Rivers & Tides' although I've just added it to my Netflix.