Two trees fell in love on the slopes of Mt. Wittenberg, about halfway up the Horse Trail. The Douglas firs stood tall, piercing the canopy of oaks and bays as they reached for the sky. They had watched each other grow from tiny saplings up through the understory of huckleberries and hazelnuts until they were nearly 100 feet. As the years wore on, their longing for each other increased, but they remained separated by an insurmountable 50 feet.
Like Romeo and Juliet, they lived in different worlds. They listened to the songs of the wind through each other’s boughs and welcomed the refreshing rains each fall.
One year, when Juliet was still young, lightning struck. It left a crotch that split her trunk into two arms, two arms longing to embrace her love so impossibly far away.
Then one wet winter, a gale blew up and Romeo saw his chance. During a huge gust, the fir uprooted himself and fell toward Juliet, ready to give up his life to be with the one he loved. The risks were obvious: if his aim was off only a foot or two, his attempt would end in disaster.
But as often happens when we finally muster the courage to leap into our destiny, things worked out. His aim was perfect and she caught him in her arms. His roots held just enough that he rests in her embrace to this day, both alive and growing old together.
One day I was strolling along the trail toward Abbotts Lagoon with my dear friend Cecily. It was a sunny spring morning and a breeze swept in from the sea, blowing across the fields and in between the uptilted sandstone hills. Over the field, maybe 100 feet high, a pair of ravens headed toward forage along the shoreline.
As we watched, the birds began circling around each other. They did somersaults, flew upside down, rolled over one another, clutched at each other’s feet and folded their wings, dipping and rising. It was raven aerial acrobatics at its best. We marveled.
Suddenly the birds folded their wings and plummeted toward the earth in a kamikaze dive, pulling up only a few feet before they hit ground. Wings out, their high G-force recovery shot them both high up into the sky. It was amazing to see them come out of such a dive so fluidly and, apparently, so effortlessly.
As they reached the epitome of the climb, back at 100 feet, they stalled out together. One flew upside down under the other, weightless for a brief moment, and they clutched at each other’s feet again, only to begin falling back to earth once more. They tucked their wings and hurtled down, swooping up again at the last moment.
They repeated this dive and ascent for 15 minutes as we watched, spellbound, witnessing poetry in the air. We could feel their pure joy, their love of play, and the erotic arousal of this daredevil dance.
And then it was over. Off they flew over the horizon of the hills as we stood speechless.
They were young and had first seen each other at a borderline gathering, deep into a summer’s night. She was shy and unsure, and they had kept their distance. Over the summer, she heard his singing voice carry across the rolling grasslands from his family’s territory in the rabbit lands on the other side of the estero. And he had heard hers, echoing in rising crescendos across the hills under the full moon. There had been a couple of road deaths that year, and rabbits were plentiful, so it was the right time to start a new family.
As the season rolled on and the nights grew longer, her father’s territorial defenses relaxed and the boy next door began crossing the traditional boundaries. She caught sight of him one morning at dawn as he headed back home, his fur rich and full, his steps full of bounce and confidence. His graceful, effortless, ground-eating side trot gave her a thrill.
They met one night, high on a hill, as fall was winding down into winter. The first rains had reawakened the earth from its summer slumber and the starry skies grew more brilliant, as their ancient longings stirred. The couple began to trot alongside each other on nightly rounds that began well after the family singing circles. Late into the night they would run, falling into exquisite rhythms together, accelerating into wild lopes, matching each other stride for stride. They danced, laughed with their feet, slapped the ground, sprayed sand in all directions and, at last, ran in huge perfect circles, tying the knot.
Richard Vacha, a Point Reyes Station resident, leads a free tracking club on the last Sunday of every month. For information, visit pointreyestrackingschool.com.