Crow on Bunker, Marin Headlands | Mark Lindsay

The crumbling bunkers and batteries tell no lies. Amidst the pastoral and spectacular Marin Headlands the remnants of fear slowly crumble—going but, by no means gone. There was a time when we waited for the invasion. We figured it was only a matter of time.

So much has changed and, too, so little. Fear and terror can rise from the ashes in a heartbeat. The fear of the Civil War, World War I and World War II live on in coastal hills of Northern California. Today’s War on Terror invented nothing. It simply stirred the darkness, illuminated the shadow, raised the dead. Close by where the big guns of WW II were bolted down to shoot at the Japanese, a Nike missile site was later built to aim itself at the Soviet Union. The Cold War—nothing cold about it. Now the missile silo is an historical site. A curiosity. Seems odd that nuclear weapons were nestled into our neighborhood.

These days, kids go to the silo on field trips. When I was a kid we ducked under our desks for practice. There was nothing curious about a fallout shelter. Communists were everywhere, insidious and aggressive. The world was turning Red. The adults were scared and decided to scare us kids. So we had sirens and drills. The missiles were on the way, it was only a matter of when.

The bunkers are falling apart as well they should. The graffiti seems so very appropriate—street art eases the tension. The severe concrete needs relief. It slowly dies but not fast enough. Someday the bunkers will be gone but not in our lifetime. Concrete and fear both take a long time to die.

All along the coast you can pick out the serious installations carved into hills. You can hear the hikers talk about them. You can watch the hikers point at them. Fear morphs into curiosity until it’s resurrected. The quaintness of old bunkers is an illusion. There is nothing quaint about them.