“Passage,” by Shelley Wong
In the Headlands, we traced and circled hills, slid into valleys,
moving like ships at every appearing traveler, an act of neighborly care,
as we drifted through a museum of living memory.
Two portals: a bridge, a lit one-way tunnel. Then, enter fog, enter salt air,
enter oxygen made by the firethorn shrub, stunning with its red berries
flaring at the crossroads. We step inside the climbing paths
of our artist forbearers, walking together, ghostly, branching –
a line to meet the line – scrawling and whispering field notes
across time and distance, as hawks arc toward the Pacific,
keeping nature’s clock. Sempervirens is Latin for always flourishing,
always green. We have that eternity here, almost. To wander is to dwell
in the not-knowing, though now we journey alongside the unspeakable.
Still, for many of us, it was always this way: an insistence on grounding,
living among what threatened us, staying close to the earth, specific to the site
and its community, rooted deep. This is the place of our imagining:
home to the Coastal Miwok, faded poison ivy at our ankles,
singing bell and foghorn. During the emergency, we are choosing
the side of protection, the memory of the soil, the beach shoreline
of dark red jasper, carnelian, jade-green agate, guided by the air
that carries both seeds and smoke. We remain, at times, wordless,
slinging color, breathing alone and apart, tangled in the land’s
intertwined stories and languages. Crossing over, we draw lines
for our possible futures, sketching that reflection. Tomorrow is coming:
in whose image? We are extensions of our past, both inheritors and elders.
Our orbiting embeds another generation, with an ear to the water and the wind,
to what lasts and what passes through. The new year has come
and the light is extending. Your line is my line and our line and will be.
Commissioned by Headlands Center for the Arts to commemorate the New Year, January 2021.