Around here all the gods live in trees.
– Jim Harrison (“The Whisper”)
It’s been tough on the woodpeckers: dry year,
no acorns in the oaks, yet
they still flap and squabble over bugs in the bark.
I can’t see the owls in the dark of dawn
as I wait for the black to disappear, yet
their mournful presence is good company.
Robbin likes the flock of little bushtits
flitting tree to tree, or washing-up at six o’clock
when the timer sprays the Mexican Sage.
Above it all, they’re smarter than the rest of us
to fly where they want—or most needed.
But around here we irrigate the trees.
Drought and dust,
pandemic and the masks
we need to breathe and feed—
day’s end cloaked in smoke
and gin—how tough are we
and every living thing
looking to escape
to a Li Po poem
and Chinese tapestry?
I can taste the pines and cedars when I awake
to fuzzy black to search for stars
beyond, hoping for a clear day.
Choking smoke with my coffee,
with feeding cows and first-calf heifers
calving, faded coyotes close.
Ash falls like snow, skiffs light and dirty.
In this haze, it’s easy to get lost at home.
I track my steps to where I’m from.
Three days ago, this second-calf heifer (9061) was fighting two coyotes off her newborn Wagyu X twins. I got a call from a neighbor who saw the action from the road, but I was 15 minutes away checking our first-calf heifers. I called Robbin who was getting ready to leave for a dentist appointment. She jumped into the Kubota and sent them packing.
Usually twin calves for a young cow is a curse, wherein most cases she abandons the weaker one. If she tries to raise them both, it typically taxes her so much that her poor shape keeps her from cycling to breed back. By themselves near the house this morning, I took out some alfalfa while the rest of the cows were still on the hill. Here the calves are playing while she has an early breakfast in our fourteenth straight day of smoke from the KNP Complex fire in Sequoia National Park and Forest.
I think they’ll make it now.
I will not say where,
but offer a photograph
of three before rut
of brittle Manzanita
to harden their horns.
Welcome to bare acres. Obviously we’re having to feed lots of hay until the new grass starts. Age and source verification requires that we record the first and last Wagyu X calf born — hours old this a.m. to cow 9049.
We record the first Angus calf of the season as part of our Age and Source Verification process. These two are about 3 days old born to cows 3292 and 3305 on the Paregian Ranch.
Behind the smoke, the KNP Complex, last Thursday’s lightning strikes that sparked the Colony and Paradise Fires in Sequoia National Park threaten both the Giant Sequoias and the community of Three Rivers.
After the lightning
igniting fires, after the storm,
a new day dawns
and a hint of change
from the blistering summer heat
with the equinox knocking
at the door, I think
of all the jobs earmarked
for years—our growing list
of work we’ve saved
for rainy days.
are unusually quiet,
don’t dare say
when to expect a rain.
I keep adding to a list
that will outlive me.
Out of the blue
the space between us
rings like a bell
as I become
a curious diversion
for two young bucks
oblivious to the perils
of the outside world
swirling around us all.
How I envy such innocence,
rejuvenated for a moment—
yet I lay down to look
through dry stems of feed,
my horns lost in branches,