Place Where You Live:

Baywood Park, California

From above, the Estuary looks like a primeval lung, chambered and channeled, spongy marsh and slick black mud. It exhales nutrients and minerals of land into sea in clouds of silt, the tide swelling and sucking. A slow, susurrus breath.

When Black Brant land in legions you hear their social gabble, guttural and constant, borne across the water on salt-soaked air. They drift in great raucous rafts, mingling with other wet-winged mariners. Ancestral spirits gathering.

Great-Granddad called this place his Innisfree. He and Great-GrandmaMom migrated here in the 1950’s, and the family, flocking, followed. Ancient Estuary became new homeland. Our heartland.

This place is fragile, a delicate dance between extremities. Life-bringing water can drown. As often empty as it is full. At once sheltered and exposed. One last filter downstream between debris and sea.

Great-Granddad guarded the Estuary, was among the first conservationists here. He and Great-Uncle, a lawyer, blocked plans for a resort on the Point, won rights to public access which still remains open. Boardwalks and sandy pathways lead down to lapping water.

In 1970 my parents wed on this Point. Together, they journeyed abroad for years, quested through alpine meadows, summited distant glacial peaks. Together, they returned to live in the land of the seabird’s call.

Barefoot I sank, knee-deep, into this sponge. Squished mud between toes. Grew to recognize the glimpse of eternity when starlight glimmers upon glassy mirror of spring tide. To feel the whispered, billowing sigh as I am absorbed. Embedded in its flesh, I’ve grown as much a part of this organism as marsh grass, one with ebb and flow.

Whether by call of seabird, magnetic migratory pull, or by surging breath of tide, I too have been drawn back into the land of my birth. I’ve borne my children here, raising the fifth generation of our blood in this mud. Singing prayers to the stars that they too may set their children’s feet on this land one day. That the Estuary will still respire, each inhalation teeming with life. Our homeland. Our heartland. Breath of this body. Center of the soul.