The Sky With Diamonds

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

I used to think the title of the Beatles’ song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” meant Lucy was taking diamonds into the sky. But now I think it means Lucy is going into a sky that already has diamonds. I changed my mind about this after I realized why the air in my Bay Area home feels different. It has sparkles in it!  The natural beauty here is covered in a light that our proximity to the ocean makes glittery.

And “I have to admit, it’s getting better.” Everywhere. After only two weeks of human slow-down, the earth is experiencing less seismic activity, less air pollution, less noise pollution. Perhaps this moment-by-moment experiment of the relationship between nature and human nature will, to some unknown extent, heal us.

When I was recently in the Kenrokuen Garden of Kanazawa, Japan,, I came across a rock in the road. It was tied up like a gift with a black rope. The Japanese call this “tome ishi,” literally, “stop stone.” It is an ancient way of diverting traffic with a message that complements its surroundings and is a metaphor for this place of peace.  It is the rock and the black rope together that gives the tome ishi its authority. Soft, trusting, respectful. Nature and human nature.

The work of Gary Snyder, California’s pre-eminent poet, draws from the Zen Buddhism of Japan.  With a perspective that was somewhat subversive in the 1960s, Snyder proposed that “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” He wrote a poem called “Not Leaving the House,” inspired by the birth of his son. Ah, we understand it better now:

In the garden light reflected in

Not leaving the house.

From dawn till late at night making a new world of ourselves around this life.

In the Bay Area, we are not leaving the house. But we still go out to walk under the sky with diamonds. Grateful to stand quietly in line for some apples and rice, a new world of ourselves.

Message on the path to Inspiration Point, Tilden Park, Berkeley, California.


When creeks are full
The poems flow
When creeks are down
We heap stones.
—- From “Civilization” by Gary Snyder


  1. When Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds hit the airwaves, my friends and I assumed it was about LSD based on the initials and the spacey lyrics. Wrong. It was inspired by his son Julian’s nursery school drawing… a much more delightful origin IMHO.

    The wisdom of the Beatles abides. As does your wonderful blog.

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