You ask why I’ve settled in these emerald mountains:
I smile, mind of itself perfectly idle, and say nothing.
Peach blossoms drift streamwater away deep in mystery
here, another heaven and earth, nowhere people know.
– Li Po (“Mountain Dialogue”)
To and from their peach tree roost
the quail trail in at dawn and dusk
like heavy heifers on parade
from shade to water trough
before they graze the waves of dry,
blond hillsides bent to a breeze.
An evening tree frog leaves a centerpiece
of succulents at six o’clock, short hops
to table’s edge and leaps for misters
on timers, scales the green swords of iris
for the wet scent of lavender and more—
crawls back at dawn like a drunk home.
We meet the mystery of nowhere
in a slow dance of seasonal cycles
returning new over and over again.
The weeks take wing and flutter
like coveys of quail to safety,
seasons spin into one another
as the dawn rides up and down,
north and south, upon the ridgeline,
never resting in the same place twice
no matter the year—this moment
unique. And these old eyes
still sharp at a distance, see more
than they used to—know the details
to look for. I am learning how
to talk with my eyes, conversations
accompanied with words:
reverberating murmurs in my chest
from a gentle land we understand.
Outside, the Maytag
wringer-washer chugged with diapers
to be hung on a rope line
from cedar to pine.
Inside, you could see out
through bat and board cracks
after the war and Relocation Camps
your family had come from,
you but a child holding my hand
afraid to let go
when the buzzing began
coiled on a rock.
You ran as fast as you could drag me
down a trail you don’t quite remember
sixty-five years later.
* * *
Robbin and I had the pleasure of coffee Sunday morning with Evelynne Watanabe Matsumoto and family. Evelynne babysat my sister and I, and initiated contact from Southern California a couple of years ago. Her letters have been delightful rememberances of her time in Exeter before heading off to UCLA to become a teacher, marry and raise a family. She told me that the $250 she saved from babysitting paid two years tuition in those days.
Matthew Ormseth Photo
Temperatures have eased off in the past few days, mornings in the low 60s, allowing our cattle a little more time to graze. The replacement heifers were undeterred by the Kubota or my presence this morning while the pump was filling their stockwater tank, intent on breakfast before heading to shade.
Though the highs have been just over 100 here, a good part of the day feels like fall, though we know summer is a long ways from being over, but a welcome relief from the highs of 113 at the end of July. Forecasts for the next ten days appear to be relatively mild, more of the same.
It could be anytime past
that you brought back
and left to us
of turkey eggs,
as many predators
to keep a few alive
to become ‘street smart—’
at home in the wild.
You made the rules
you lived by
surviving yet beyond
your fences, ever
since you’ve been gone.
for Gary Davis
It could be anything
at a distance, a shape
or silhouette grazing
your memory, a word
kept to yourself
now dim enough
to call instinct—
it needs no name.
Listen to the dogs
stirred by the wild
curiosity that yet holds
them close to the house.
They have chosen
partnership, stayed awake
while you dreamed
on an adventure
you can’t quite remember,
edited so many times
it remains undone, loose
lines without ending.
It could be anything
to catch your eye
and hold it
at a distance,
if you’re looking,
if you listen.
Posted in Poems 2016
Even the oaks that are still alive are pruning themselves. This Valley Oak lost its top Saturday night into the Holdbrooks’ driveway, either side of their electric gate, missing the solar panel and keypad pedestal. As a direct result of the four-year drought, trees and limbs of trees are falling on fences and into access roads everywhere. We’ll be packing chainsaws as we go.