I may cough with the dust of generations
inhaled to rattle in my lungs, lingering
with each breath—behind the herds of cattle
since the eighteen-fifties mixed and laid
to rest, becoming all the grass and browse
they could digest—or I may be this old dirt
now stirred within my flesh to become one
of Stafford’s precious clods compressed
with sweet memories well before my time
expires. Rain upon the dust, grass to flesh,
all the green springs blooming with calves—
cows and men—dust of dust alive again.
Elderberry – May 28, 2012
Along the Mankins Flat Fire Road into Greasy, this relatively young Elderberry bush is loaded with fruit. Potential habitat for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, listed as a threatened species since 1980, many Elderberries can be found in the foothills up to 2,000 feet. If only the birds would treat our cherry tree as kindly.
Elderberry – May 28, 2012
Most tracks fade beneath the little feet
of quail, or the pads of the wild, or last
night’s wind and we are gone, no longer
reading the latest news off the road alone.
Under thorny gooseberries overgrown,
a pestle rests in a granite grinding hole,
waiting for a sure hand and a woman’s
song to stir the rock back to life again.
The Coyote tree, two arms outstretched
at the top of the perfect grade the CCCs
carved with mules and a Fresno scraper,
dynamite, wheelbarrows and many picks
and shovels, has seen few humans since
the dam has held its beginning underwater—
the old Blue Oak has lost its bark with
no limbs left to hang a wild dog on.
A place to start before light,
before dark ridgelines open
like wildflowers in canyons—
each day an opportunity
to sing as we go out upon
the vast morning, greet
each moment’s details
as we move into a future
that we have helped shape.
Greasy Cove, Lake Kaweah
Not much activity on the lake when we went up to Greasy to gather this morning in a light drizzle, but the lake had come alive with activity by the time we came down. For all the Vets who gave their lives for US.
It’s getting a little crowded around the corrals since we weaned and shipped the Wagyu calves last week, waiting to palpate their mothers, yesterday. Considering our dry December and January when we turned-out the bulls, we had a great preg-check with only 2 out of 77 open, leaving us 75 to incorporate into the cowherd. With no place to go with them until we start gathering, weaning and culling the older cows, Robbin and I need to decide where to start the weaning process that will keep us busy for next 3 for 4 weeks, while hauling the 2nd-calf heifers up the hill and calves and cull cows down.
The first-calf heifers above, bred to the Wagyu, have been helping me irrigate the pasture. They also need to be sorted from the second-string bunch of older cows and late calvers with whom they been running, then driven up the creek to the pastures around the house where they’ll calve.
And we’re not getting started too soon! The weather has been cool for the past few days, forecast into the low-70s today, chance of thunder, lightening, etc., that we really don’t need, before it warms up after Memorial Day weekend. Lots of early mornings, we’ll have to pace ourselves. Here we go!
The river’s mist, the churn and tumble
over boulders, where beneath its roar
and pines were trout for boys to catch.
I still get loud when we rub shoulders
on the phone, when I can’t see
your missing teeth. We dam rivers,
conserve irrigation water and believe
we can stop the floods and save
our sprawling delta cities with projects.
The water warms into a ditch, spreads
into furrows in fields to disappear
and feed ourselves at the same time—
we live between the snow and fruit
and pray for storms, for the pulse
and surge of plenty. We swim
within a system shaped like a tree—
in the deep narrows of its trunk
or on the fringes of its creeks.
Nothing stays the same: the garden we started
when Joe died with leftover logs to hold the dirt,
creek silt, horse manure and our grief
bearing fruit, that fed us, saving trips to town—
and Margaret’s corner we added, planted
to garlic and squash again. Come evenings,
since the many glasses tipped to their spirits
sprinkled upon the cotyledons rising, reaching
to greet warm summer darkness, the weeds
and snails have made a home. We are slower
now, months behind the late spring rains—
your tendonitis, hole in my hand—clearing
a bed at a time, making furrows, planting
dreams. Yet, this must be heaven-made
when there is no need to keep track of time.
No straight lines in any season, we wake
within a broken bowl of dark ridges
come together beneath the same blue sky
as the leaf-hoppers streaked last night:
elliptical orbits of gold going for the light—
such passion before they flutter and die
like poor humans looking for an opening,
a short-cut to the easy life. Somehow,
we have bastardized the word, the thought
of work without joy, swapped satisfaction
for a salary, let our hearts go empty
and hands get soft and we hate it—hate
having to pay for a moment’s diversion.