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Sutro Ruins

Waking landscape sketch by Chris Wayan, 1997.

sketch of the ruins of the Sutro Baths, San Francisco


These sea-caves and pools are in the ruins of the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, a series of huge glassed-in pools that once stepped down the steep slope to the sea, at Land's End. It burned when I was small, and the aqueducts fell, and only rocks and brackish pools remain.

The mysterious script at the top is a note in my dream-language, reminding me that exploring the ruins inspired the longest, strangest dream I've had yet of another life on another world: Fishergirls.

I'm not the first. It was used for a key scene in the film "Harold and Maude," too. It's an odd place. Maybe it's just that there are so few impressive ruins on the West Coast. For thousands of years, the locals had the good sense to built small and light, for the regular earthquakes made big stone buildings deathtraps.

So the Mississippi Valley has its great temple-mounds and earth-snakes, the Southwest has its cliff-castles, Mexico has its pyramids, but California has mostly small, unobtrusive meditation-nooks, and a few open amphitheatres--no stone walls or roofs.

So even modest ruins like the Sutro are rare and precious in a way. Plus, ruins with fresh water seem primal, in the West. Water and stone.

I was especially drawn to this water-tunnel, and in my Fishergirl dream, it grew into the archway and birth-like passage into the secret pool in the Lost City's heart.

But the sketch itself never fit into the final story, so it's an orphan now.



LISTS AND LINKS: San Francisco - landscapes - stone - water - a scene from a dream a few hundred yards offshore, where something new is building: Mermaid Dish - The illustrated dream-story, Fishergirls (caution: contains nudity, sex, and snotty remarks about lemur boys)

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