Saturday, September 21, 2013

Oak Springs in the Fall

Oak Springs in the Fall

I love watching the woodpecker store acorns in the digger pine trees off the deck at my friends’ ranch.  Rick and Kimberly are on another adventure to float the Rogue River; I get the pleasure of watching their place.  They think the goats could kid at any moment.  Billie, AKA William the Conqueror, has been exacting first night law across the herd.  I am sure Razorback is not happy, but in the Emperor’s court, he is a eunuch.  The herd must breed because they have been losing friends in battles with coyotes and mountain lions.  Their numbers are dwindling.  Every time Billie tries to mount, one of the larger goats butts him off.  As Kimberly said, Billie must be getting quicker.  Soon, they will be vulnerable with kids to watch over and protect.  It might not happen while I am here for the week, but we will see. 

As the sunsets along the north rim of their canyon, wind weaves through oak trees.  A storm approaches and I can feel fall in the air.  I have been applying and looking at jobs in other places.  The first time I moved to Chico was when I became fully aware of the fall season and anticipated the senesce of leaves along Esplanade.  It is not that I hadn’t seen or felt fall in my hometown, or Alaska, or San Diego.  Surely we were aware of the changing season, but it was more about summer to winter.  In fact, I think a lot of my love for those two seasons was wrapped up in getting a break from school.  Fall and spring are semesters.

Fall in Alaska was harsh and beautiful; the day-length was dying along with the salmon on lagoon bank shores.  The fireweed and cow parsnip were drying up and harsh sound through reeds reminded me of the incoming cold.  We would weatherproof the lodge, pull the boats up to dry land, and prepare everything for winter.  However, there were no trees to truly celebrate fall in fashion.

In Chico, when I first moved here, I would walk the streets to the rain of anthocyanin.  None of it prepared me for Logan Utah, where I learned to hike amongst the big-tooth maples and aspen groves and saturate myself in fall.  Every time I think about leaving a place, I think about home.  Not a home, but the concept of home.  I have learned enough to know that when home is grounded in a physical space, when home is a place, while you are part of it, time moves differently.  Surely the place is changing, home is adapting, but when I reflect back on that place, it won’t be a steady stream from beginning to end, but a splotched picture of experiences, a sidewalk drizzled in decaying leaves and the myriad of colors turning to brown.  With Logan, I miss raking leaves from the giant elm protecting over the house, and composting the garden as I wait for snow to comfort it for winter.

I might not leave Chico.  I won't make that call until I am pulling away, trailer loaded, truck full, and my dog next to me looking out the window, smelling our way, in pursuit of the marrow.  I look at this old digger pine with holes polka dotting the bark, acorns jammed into most of them, and think about the generations of California woodpeckers who have called this their pantry, the ground they have tilled, the culture of their kind, the cellar ready for the winter.  I have stored up very little food here in Chico.  My garden was not impressive, but the friends are amazing.  While I love this town, the park, the creek, the warm nights on bikes, it is the people who give me sustenance.  To leave home is to senesce from roots deep in the hearts of friends.