We know the sound, feel it
pound our flesh, reverberate
in our skulls, draw sinew tight
to hold on—to the moment
fleeting, bucking, kicking loose
the last of common sense.
No ordinary ride in the park
upon watered lawns spaced
between pampered shade trees,
we recognize the scent
of rain on sudden gusts,
feel skin shrink, follicles lift
us up, and the sweet cud
swirling above bovine beds,
flat mats of grass awakening.
Not quite wild, we are captive
in a maze of weathered hills,
fractured rock and families
of oaks where shadows slip
and voices stalk—whisper one
more metaphor upon our lips.
October 5, 2013
The ground swells with the storm,
penetrates to granite rock
leaking rivulets in predictable places
and I want more to flood memory
of the dry years, smooth their track
chiseled in the walls of my skull, yet
outside myself: a perfect miracle
as the earth takes slow swallows first.
I am this place despite my selfishness,
my impatience and vengeful desire
to forever purge this drought
as my flesh comes slowly back to life.
A series of seasons unfolding,
we chase the sun, pray for rain,
year after year—no two the same
in this canyon that sustains us,
trains habits and hones senses
into instincts like horses have,
like the wild wears with first breath
until the last for generations
in the same place—we know
this hard, yet resilient, ground:
clay and decomposing granite
dust mixed like concrete
with green seeds, given rain.
Waiting we become the place
and praise its perseverance.
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.
Posted in Photographs
Tagged Drought, Dry Creek, Galiano Island, Iselle, Julio, Kauai, photographs, place, rain, Salt Spring Island, Victoria, water, weather, Wendell Berry