Category Archives: Photographs

WELCOMING

 

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When I was young and lived alone
she kept me company, silhouette
stretched along the ridge waiting

for the moon upon her breast,
long hair falling into the creek.
Some nights she stirred in her sleep.

Alive, these hills still welcome me,
draw flesh and eyes away
from the bottomlands of man.

 

AFTER A STORM

 

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                                        So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid.
                                        Some day like this might save the world.

                                             – William Stafford (“Malheur Before Dawn”)

Following another inch of rain, snow-white cumulus
float blue at dusk, take the shape of swans and dragons
trailing to join the thunderheads stacked in the mountains
darkening. The gods have swept these hills an iridescent green,
flushed the draws and creeks of loose debris and on their breath
stirred the air with blinding clarity. As the sun falls behind
clouds and ridge, this part of the world scanned by rising shadows
is fresh and clean as a Canyon Wren’s whistling. With fires blazing
western skies, sailor and shepherd survivors rest easy, yet
tremble to embrace the color of Armegeddon in their dreams.

 

IN THE CANYON

 

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The sun is setting under gray thunderheads
after ninety days of rain and we are talking
with the camera, its long thick eye closed,

but at the ready as the landscape changes
clothes in the crisp, clean air, every shadow
sharp. ‘Art,’ he suggests, ‘may be the only

way to save humanity.’ I submit to my son
that creativity comes from constantly rubbing
against rural realities begging a hands-on plan—

of pumps and plumbing, leaky troughs
and fences, all the languages of livestock
and the wild we try to translate, an art

from and on this solid ground as it changes
with the light. I walk and click as I speak,
searching for an answer to savor later.

 

NEAR AT HAND

 

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So many places near at hand where lovers slipped
into the afternoon shade, dark upon the green,
lichened rocks burning beside small oak trees

beckoning, begging a pause for conversation.
The grandfather oak, arms wider than he was tall,
a Red Tail’s roost, swooped to clutch a wounded

squirrel when I was a boy, both talked to me—
we made a deal. Leaking from the gossip rocks
worn smooth by women’s feet, a chattering

melody claims the air, of centuries layered
and bared, freckled granite gray to the sky.
Always horseback in these steep hills,

the old cowboys before me were drunk
with what spoke to them, would rather ride
the unpredictable wild and tell the tale

than slap backs among the civilized. This
was their place in time—all the sharp eyes
I remember and recognize by the cut

of their descriptions, all the stories saved
by their fathers’ fathers, secreted away
and still waiting to be told, near at hand.

 

FREEZING TIME

 

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The old Fox theater, stars
blinking high above the balcony,
Tarzan swinging from a grapevine

for a dime when we were small—
but now, I want to slow the movie down
to a crawl, freeze the frame and rest,

digest the shit-rain of hearsay,
let the cloudy water settle to see
that my rippling reflection is more real

than what the screen is offering.
We are old children watching
an older script unfold, a motley cast

of bad actors vying for the lead.
But there is no holding the planet in place
just to wait for me.

 

RED SKY DAWN

 

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Tonight in California
I will read this in the rain
when I am full and fed-
up with the news—

and listen instead
to it storm upon the roof,
to the impromptu chorus
of croaking tree frogs,
to the ever-tumbling roar
of water gushing down
a muddy creek

if I’m smart.
It’s all runoff
saturated ground, yet
the uncontrollable sound
pleases the primeval place
I need for reassurance
beyond the posturing politics
of way-too many men.

Besides, when living
off grass, it’s sacrilege
to ever complain about a rain.

 

THE TROUBLE WITH DAMS

 

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                                        A mind like compost.
                                             – Gary Snyder (“On Top”)

All the deep stuff
against the decomposing
granite, the rock beneath

a jillion moons of dirt,
of marginal soil—
our slanted earth

beneath the upright grass,
beneath the wildflowers,
beneath our feet

and hooves, horses,
cattle grazing—all
the deep stuff leaks

gently to the surface,
out from under
saturated ground

as if a cleansing,
as if a new recipe
in rivulets spreading

fundamental elements
into muddy creeks
downstream

to settle and collect
behind the structures
of dead architects.

 

Wild Cucumber

 

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A few wildflowers beginning to bloom including this Wild Cucumber climbing up this dead Live Oak. AKA Sierra Man-Root

Wikipedia

 

Green

 

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With nearly 20″ of rain here on Dry Creek, and more at the higher elevations of the ranch, we have green grass and even a few early wildflowers. Click to enlarge to see the cattle we have yet to gather and brand at the end of the ridge, slick slopes in every direction.

The ground is so saturated that the septic system for our guest house is working in reverse.

BADLY BIGLY

We believe that the cream
rises to the top,
but when it really rains
so does the shit.

(one of our deck poems)

All eyes will be on the Oroville Dam as seven days of Pineapple Expresses are forecast for the Feather River watershed, 70 miles north of Sacramento.

 

SEQUESTERED

 

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                           And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when
                                – Johnny Cash (“Folsom Prison Blues”)

We’ve essentially been sequestered to the house since returning from Elko, gray and rainy days—water leaking, standing, running around us, creek, once again, too high to cross in the Kubotas, nowhere for a pickup to go without tearing up the roads or getting stuck. But yesterday, the sun illuminated hillsides so green that you had to squint for a while before completely opening them. Glorious, indeed.

While inside, I’ve been trading emails with Andy Wilkinson as we work on publication of the keynote speech that he delivered at the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the entirety of which was his long poem “Storyline”. Perhaps it’s my hearing that tends to settle on a rhyme before the intended word, but I’ve almost always preferred poetry on the page, its presentation without distraction, words you can chew on before moving on. Listening Thursday morning in the Elko Convention Center auditorium, Andy was small and far away at the podium, the rhythm of his delivery was so musically mesmerizing, I knew I was missing words, yet caught up with his multi-faceted approach to ‘story’, the theme at Elko this year, as it related to time, science and us, but I managed to keep up with the keynote.

Downstairs from the offices of the Western Folklife Center, I ran into Andy at the Pioneer Saloon, the setting for his “Muriel Rukeyser and the Story-Time Continuum”, an essay that appeared in the Gathering’s program booklet that I hadn’t read yet. I asked Andy if would send me the text of “Storyline”—we even discussed having Dry Crik publish it.

The poem and the essay arrived Wednesday and I went to work, like a kid eager for sweet reward, on the layout, exchanging emails with Andy in Lubbock, Texas until yesterday about noon, sunshine everywhere green instead of gray. The banter of our communication was truly a dance as we discussed punctuation and space on the page, the poem and its presentation for four and a half days.

Our labor of love in the hands of cyberspace, I could stay inside no longer—grabbed the camera, got in the Kubota, and carefully traveled the pasture adjacent to the house, trying catch the freshness of the remaining spring-like day without getting stuck. Forecast for another week of rain begins Thursday. This is something!