A deep dark brown upon well-worn ground,
the luster of acorns ripe for consumption
litter the roadway, the steep dirt trail
to cows and calves expecting hay or rain.
How the oaks fed us all, once upon a time,
ground and leached into a meal—filling
the bellies of bear and deer, or crushed
beneath a wheel for quail, or swallowed
whole by Band-tailed Pigeons and Wood Ducks.
At maturity, a forgotten crop awaits but few
harvesters, a steady dwindling of wild souls
that owned this space and lived well-enough
to prosper generations. What seed have we
to leave, now that we have changed the world—
what truths have we left to tell our children?
Bumper crop of acorns,
warm monsoon rains.
The redbud bloomed
confused, drawing butterflies
for weeks—the season’s
last hatch of Monarchs
swarming crimson, orange
and black-trimmed fairies
to the front door.
All a sign of something
unusual, uniquely beautiful—
that superfluous imbalance
charged to an unknown
future—a fleeting gift
to remember the gods
before leaving us
four years dry and begging
for something normal.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “Weightless” Monarchs
Weather Journal 2011-12
While calving, our cows are well aware of the recent influx of bears, displaced in part by the 150,000 acre Rough Fire in Kings Canyon, but primarily due to the drought and the lack of anything to eat at the higher elevations. Furthermore, there’s not much here to eat either, as only one in three or four hundred oak trees has any acorns and the percentage of oak trees that have died because of the lack of rainfall the past four years continues to increase and probably approaches 40% now. The remainder have lost most of their leaves, but there’s bear sign everywhere we go.
On Monday on my way to pump water at the Paregien Ranch, I found the mothers of these two calves high in Ridenhour Canyon, taking turns going to water while the other babysat. Though I didn’t see the calves on the way up, I knew the cows had been sucked. When I came down a few hours later, I found the cows and calves had moved to the top of a ridge. Both were well hidden and only a day or so old.
Most cows sort themselves before calving, as the ones close to calving begin running together apart from the bunch as they prepare their nurseries ahead of time. We’ve lost calves to bears in the past, but usually those of first-calf mothers. Older cows, or cows together, can bluff most bears, but with so little to eat in the middle of calving there are no guarantees. Bears will eat anything, and older bears unable to rummage for food begin to acquire a taste for veal.
Yesterday, on my way up to work on a trough, I found the same two cows together higher yet in the pasture, making their steep round trip to water to close to a mile. Once again, I didn’t see the two calves until I came off the mountain.
Out of respect, the spirits of the Yokuts
were revisited by Quail, invited to Wuknaw
to wait for Wild Pigeons in search of acorns
to return. Lion was concerned for his deer,
Coyote, Bobcat and Red Tail for their squirrels
as Woodpeckers gathered in nearby naked
oak trees crying: We’ll die, we’ll die, we’ll die.
Feral hogs were not invited. Only a few
spirits could remember how to survive.