Who knows why, but this morning I find myself thinking about jackrabbits, vineyards, and dust. These are but a few significant emblems of my childhood, which, rather than ending, gradually became the insanity I labor under today. Polliwogs, crawdads, slow-moving mossy water. The sound of our tractor in the distance, the tractor and my father pursued by a cloud of blackbirds looking for bugs, seeds, and worms. As I look out this morning on our cold, wet street, and at the drops of water clinging to the bare twigs on the maple trees, and at the gray sky above, and at the crows circling the firs one street over, I can’t help wondering what I am doing here. Here. In this chair. In front of this computer screen. Writing incomplete sentences. It’s not that I want to go back. Once was enough, as it is for so many things. But I am grateful for the memories. It’s all very tangled, I know. Much of it can’t be trusted. It happened, but did it really happen as I remember it? Certain things, yes. I played baseball on a team called the Alta Apiaries, and I batted over .400. Once, while running from first to second base, I was hit directly on the left eye by the ball when the second baseman tried to throw out the runner heading to first. It hurt. I kept playing. Later, the white of my eye changed colors. There was no trip to the doctor. The infield was hard dry dirt. A ground ball hit on that surface moved so quickly that an infielder, especially a third baseman, could be instantly handcuffed. You had to be on your toes. It was scary. But did we have a coach? If we did, I don’t remember him. I want to say we coached ourselves, but I can’t be sure. Countless hours spent rattling around the countryside in a big yellow school bus. Riding through the dense valley fog. Riding through the heat, windows down, hollering. Nearing home one early spring afternoon as hail stones pelted the bus. I will say it happened when I was in the fifth grade, but it might have been earlier, or later. And the collective memory: my father, walking from his home on Road 66 to Grand View School every day when he was a kid. His house getting electricity in 1932, when he was nine. His father, herding home a neighbor’s turkeys and sheep after the neighbor lost his property during the Depression. Which neighbor? Which property? How did the animals taste? Were they stringy and tough? Probably. But it was better than starving. In the winter, they had to feed their horses bare brush from the vineyard to keep them from starving. Grapes, raisins, tomatoes, eggplant, mulberry trees, umbrella trees, shovels, hoes, pruning shears, weeds. Old boxcars, with people living inside. You? Me? Everyone?
One Hand Clapping, February 2, 2004
The Old Road
The old road is wider now. A mile passes like a dream.
But the vineyards, barns, and trees still call out to me.
Restless, I find a place to turn —
a narrow side road preserved by neglect,
where nothing needs a name —
Except, perhaps, blind autumn,
blessed by sacred rain.
Songs and Letters, October 11, 2007
Tags: Art, Avenue 404, Baseball, Boxcars, Crawdads, Diaries, Grand View School, Jackrabbits, Journals, Memory, My Father, My Grandfather, Our Old Farm, Poems, Poetry, Polliwogs, Road 64, Road 66, The Alta Apiaries, The Great Depression, The San Joaquin Valley