St. Matthew’s Land by Coastside artist Galen Wolf (Part X)


It [the sea] strewed beach wood everywhere and created the aquarium-like pools flowering with anemone and garnished with kelp and sea urchins.

Big-faced capazoni, like Chinese fish-kites, prowled the reefs. Swift cod of many colors swam deep, and flashing silver schools awoke the sea birds and fishermen to intense activity.

The sea held the fog and the coolness, and never were the coastland people unaware of its pervasive presence.

The mountains, the sea, the indifferent access, kept this slender coastal plain apart in time and in ways of life for years. It acquired a serene and unspectacular beauty.

Houses and barns turned weather grey. Moss formed golden green patina on the roofs and fences. Thick hedges of cypress and eucalyptus, intended as windbreaks, helped compose pictures so lovely no artist could pass them by.

Glimpses down steep gullies to the blue or the froth of waves intensified the color. The warm greens of the varied brush was dusted in gold by yellow flowers–the lupin, the wormwood and the primrose.

With a sad heart one sees the change. A new day cannot be denied. Old shingles are replaced with tin or corrugated roofing. Trees are ruthlessly cut. The lovely curves of old roads are lost. A painter feels a desperation to record what is left, what is passing so fast.

This San Mateo, this Saint Matthew’s land, was rich and old when most of California was raw and unknown. The Spaniard had here achieved a courtesy, a hospitality, a serenity almost without historic compare.

There are times, moments, when we still may feel this enduring magic. Try it. Walk in the warm deserted canyons as October sun makes Indian summer. You will feel the spell, more tangible than dream.

In glades that have not changed at all, the centuries drop away. The day and the mood of Spain are here.

Quail leap up and take flight. The muted thunder of their wings becomes the mutter of Spanish drums. Along fence rows the pomp and glory and hope of a vanished empire stand in its bannered colors.

In purple and gold, the dusty ranks of aster and goldenrod ask remembrance of the birthday of our homeland. With joyful hearts we answer and celebrate and a strange benediction is ours and a renewed love of our heritage.

[The End]