Collisions in Place



Though we don’t leave the canyon often, it’s always fun to speculate about moving to another place, like Victoria where summer temperatures are 25°F cooler than the San Joaquin Valley, where the urban pace is not as urgent as California, where the air is clean and clear. It’s been over a year since we’ve left the ranch on Dry Creek, the dust and drought, the cattle, but in Victoria our daydreams broke free enough to take on details, like trying on new clothes for a decent fit.

Concurrently, I was reading Wendell Berry’s “Imagination in Place”, a collection of essays that exemplify the concept of how belonging to a place can offer a more sustainable vision for it, our community, and ourselves. Reading from Victoria, it was clear that I had not exhausted what was possible on Dry Creek, despite a lifetime of observations, improvements and reams of poetry.

Unbeknownst to us, my daughter Jessica For the Archives who lives on the island of Kauai, was visiting Galiano Island with her husband and son. We’re lucky to see them once a year, so to have them near as the band rehearsed for their show on Salt Spring Island, to pick up where we last left off so effortlessly in a place that was not home to either of us (though Jessica had spent a year on Salt Spring Island) was an interesting mix of exhilarating emotions. We loved it.

Arriving home to the Islands just ahead of hurricanes Iselle and Julio, they were thrown into hurricane prep mode, boarding windows and stowing stuff. But living on a Noni farm with access to well water and a solar pump increased their sense of security, the whole experience enhancing their confidence to ride out most disasters—part of learning to live in a place.

She emails: “Curious how it’s been for you coming home. Sometimes it’s hard to return, other times it feels so good. Sometimes, it’s a little of both.”

It has not been an effort to fall back into the mundane routine of feeding and irrigating, checking stockwater and cows that will begin calving in a couple of weeks. The long shadows of August promise change, the monsoonal thunderheads in the high mountains and the gusts they bring to the canyon excite us to feel young and alive as summer begins its retreat into what we hope will be a normal year of grass and rain. We start over again in a place we know and trust.

2 responses to “Collisions in Place

  1. What a talented family! Love Jessica’s blog, photos and cards. Nice to have you back in home country, tho I totally understand the feelings of getting away. Just a nice respite with daughter’s family in Palo Alto will do it for us! s


  2. John, thanks for this lovely account of your time and thoughts from away from home. So glad that you and Robbin were able to get away and enjoy some contrasts to life on the ranch. I keep thinking that you are getting the same rainstorms that we are, but it sounds like you aren’t?


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