Earlier this year, my partner and I discovered a cheap and easy way to explore Santa Rosa, a city of around 180,000 which claims to be “Out there. In the middle of everything.”
Legally speaking, Santa Rosa is an island in the middle of the “unincorporated” lands governed by the county government. The goal of our self-assigned, totally arbitrary project is to walk the perimeter of this legally-defined island, shaped by decades of behind-the-scenes negotiations between various political forces.
Our mission was partially inspired by an essay author Christina Nichol wrote about her experience during and after the October 2017 wildfires. The piece starts by reflecting on the difficulty humans have mentally grasping the scale of climate change and closes with an introduction to the “poetic acts” of Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean French poet, filmmaker and therapist.
As one of their poetic endeavors, Jodorowsky and an accomplice walked in a straight line across their city, ignoring all of the obstacles along their chosen path. When they reached a house, they explained their mission to the occupant and were allowed to pass through.
As the world spirals out of control, Jodorowsky’s random, poetic missions become increasingly appealing.
On our most recent walk, we passed through a neighborhood just east of Santa Rosa Avenue where multiple roads dead-end onto chain link fences blocking empty fields.
In one of these lush, unkempt fields, a black office chair was set up facing Taylor Mountain. A few hundred feet in front of the chair, a couple played fetch with a dog. The view was stunning and enhanced by a feeling that we had discovered some neighborhood secret.
Whenever we return home after one of these walks, I feel accomplished and refreshed: I did something and I shared the experience with someone.
It’s a nice feeling, and I recommend chasing it with someone you love. (Disclosure: I am not a poet or a therapist.) — W.C.