Go For A Magical Ramble!

by Gwen

Late summer brings heat, fog, wild berries, and beautiful brilliant days.  I write today to share one of my favorite sacred adventure spots: the Albany Shorefront, aka the Albany Bulb (for the shape of the land).  For those in the Bay Area, it's just north of Berkeley by the Buchanan/ Albany exit off of 580/80 (at the very end of Marin Ave/ Buchanan Ave).  The parking lot warns of a 2 hour limit that I have never ever seen enforced.  Here's your witchy guide to a fantastic and magical wander:

Blackberry heaven (marked in purple, of course): the areas alongside the parking lot and up at the sculpture beach are completely covered Sleeping Beauty style blackberry bramble. When I lived close by, I visited between the Festival of Heart and Harvest (Lugnasadh) & Harvest Home (Mabon) like going to the grocery store and returned home with colanders full of blackberries. Bring a container and wear practical clothes.

Yoni gathering place (marked in dark red): This sculptured small ampitheater built into a low hillside is in the classic shape of a Hindu yoni, the Goddess labia.  In the center is an unofficial fire pit where people regularly (illegally) have bonfires.  Sit and meditate for a while.  Do a ritual.  Watch for broken glass, as some of the gatherings are boozy.  Do the Goddess a favor and clean up the litter you see.

The main beach by the parking lot is a great place to meet dogs, make offerings, and clamber around on the rocks. I have sat on these rocks and watch the full moon reflect on the bay while singing and offering whiskey to Arianrhod.  If you walk inland across the plateau, you'll come across a little side trail where you can scramble down to what I've marked in lime green as "tidal beach."  At high tide this is a slim crescent of sand, and at low tide you can walk quite a ways and see seaweed, shells, and flotsam.  There are rocks and chunks of concrete and rebar from the Albany Bulb's shipping-dock days, which makes for interesting exploring and lots of nooks for sitting and meditating.  Also unlike the main beach, you'll probably be the only one there.

The entire park is scattered with these chunks of rebar and concrete, and it's a constantly shifting gallery of paintings and sculpture.  I've marked concentrations of art in sky blue, but really--it's everywhere.  Keep exploring.  Be sure to visit what I think of as the Lady of the Waters (marked with a blue star).  I don't know what the artist intended, but to me and the Pagans I've brought to visit Her, she is a goddess.  She stands about 12' tall at the edge of the surf, face upturned and arms raised in blessing and celebration, at the place where the path meets the beach.

Clootie tree (marked in kelly green): watch the left side of the path along the high spine of the park for a mid-size tree, a locust or nut tree with fern-like leaves, whose bark is covered with colorful graffiti. People leave offerings & prayers tied to its branches: medicine bottles & bart stubs, colorful ribbons & woven baskets.  I always bring the tree some water too.  It's a very friendly tree for climbing and meditation.

Mad Mark's Castle (royal blue square) is a partly-roofed concrete structure covered in dizzying graffiti.  Be careful of broken glass as you enjoy clambering around and exploring.  The roof offers a truly gorgeous view of the Bay.

Labyrinth (marked in dark red):  this place is steeped in magic.  I know other groups use it too but for me it's Hekate's place. It's in the backyard of the homeless city that was there for 20 years before the city of Albany evicted its residents in 2013,  driving them out to camp in less scenic places around the area.  She looks after Her people,  the dispossessed & in-between & forgotten.  The first time I walked this labyrinth I spent a while sitting at the center with the little community altar where people had left broken glass, notes, flowers.  I left prayers and two pennies for Hekate and the Boatman for those who die destitute and forgotten.  As I reemerged from the labyrinth, a great black dog--one of Hekate's symbols--trotted down and circled the clearing, glancing at and dismissing me, before climbing the ridge again to his people.  I've brought CAYA people here to walk the labyrinth at night.  It's an incredible place.