Awhile back, Gary Yost came to me about music for The Invisible Peak film, and we hit it off so well and got so much done so quickly, we're now co-directing the film and more. It's an exhilarating, a wonderful collaboration, something new for me, yet work that feels very natural and almost pre-ordained. Ironically, this work and this art we are creating with the history of, and on behalf of that storied mountain called Tamalpais, bookends my own history in California.
In the '60's I came out from the East and landed in San Francisco during the Summer of Love. I was living at Fell and Cole, the panhandle of the great Golden Gate Park, in an apartment building with my friends and such future musical luminaries as Jack Casady and Grace Slick. I had been there about a month trying to decide what to do with my young life, when I heard a mention of a place called "Marin". I didn't know if it was a town or county, or what, but I wanted to go there. The intriguing name seemed to be spoken by my friends with a vocal inflection that blended mystery with reverence. That was a tone I wasn't used to, but it didn't matter.
One Saturday afternoon we drove north across the Golden Gate Bridge in a drizzly, windy fog, me driving my 1961 VW bus and with my two fellow musician friends. I could barely see the Waldo Grade Tunnel as we puttered through it - this was before the rainbows were painted on it - heading to whatever "Marin" was. Coming down that long grade into Mill Valley my pals suggested we go to "Mount Tam, to the top". Yet another mystery. I was game to go but the fog was so dense that day it was a long, damp, dark slog. So, it was impossible to see or tell much of Mill Valley, or, even the road up to the top. For all I knew we could have been in Nebraska.
Late in the day, about an hour out of San Francisco, we slowly wended our way into a dim, empty parking lot. Surrounded by trees on three sides and an even deeper fog on the other, I shut the motor off. The air was getting less thick and the wind had died down. Where we were, at what height, I had no idea. My fellow travelers said they knew the Fire Station lookout, one had gone to S.F. State University with him, so up the broken, crooked path we walked into the fog, and as we walked the air seemed to get brighter and whiter, and with touches, rays, of gold in it.
We were greeted at the top by a friendly shout coming from high over our heads, and, up we three went on the final wooden steps into the Fire Lookout Tower, and the darkness seemed to roll away before our eyes. We all were looking out at the most astounding sight I had ever seen: in the tower the four of us were alone on a glassed-in raft floating on an endless ocean of sparkling, brilliant white clouds. Just the light and the pristine clouds, vast sparkling sunlight everywhere. There was no land, no water, nothing but an orange-yellow sun in an impossibly blue sky, and the whitest sea of white clouds rolling to forever. At least that's how I remember it.
Mount Tamalpais had hoisted me up on her shoulders and shown me the New World.
I made the decision that day to stay in California. I still live in Marin under Tam's protection. Maybe this is why I'm so happily collaborating with the inspired Gary Yost, he of the drive to restore the West Peak of the mountain by using every gift of his photographic and cinemagraphic artistry, along with the multiple talents of narrator-storyteller Peter Coyote, and the sublime and evocative music of composer Michael Hoppe, as well as the graphic and artistic chops of our tech wizard, Jamie Clay, and the efforts of more co-contributors. All of us in service to restore that noble peak.
Thinking back to that day in that Fire Tower, there at the top, floating on the sea of luminous white clouds, I can see now a beautiful arc in time. As I work on this film about Mount Tamalpais, it is an arc for which I am very grateful. Thank you Old Mountain, you've changed my life, yet again. George Daly - Mill Valley