Too cold this morning for even the birds to be singing, though I get out of bed early and walk around the patches of frost and tiny pools of ice that lay about my outdoor haunt. I need to find that old electric heater and place it in my spot where I write. My fingertips do not even wish to settle on the keyboard, so I keep them in my pockets long enough to get them warm before I bring them out. It’s only been a few days since the end of summer, this extended summer that we frequently experience in the fall. I wander back close to the fireplace and open my Kindle for a peek at somebody else’s words, someone who is feeling more enthused about the weather. Given another hour, sunlight will come drifting over the tops of the trees and make go away what the chilly night has brought.
The corner convenience store down the road a mile has been boarded up. The old woman who ran the place has run out of money. The last time I entered the store, it was full of crap. She got to the point where she had nothing to sell that anybody would want. I think she started the business with too little cash, and from there all her daily commerce dropped off. My brother-in-law, who was visiting this past few days from up in the Sierras, had shown some interest in reopening the store. He called the phone number on the for-rent sign, and we went down to speak with the landlord about the prospect of a new business. He told us that some homeless people living under the bridge that crosses over Soquel Creek had been hanging out near the store, begging for food or anything else that she might be willing to hand out. She had gotten into the habit of trading their labor for six packs of beer. If they would lift this box or that box, I was told, she would keep them in supply, even when she knew that she could not afford it.
The last few weeks of her operation, I saw the little store turn into a little hobo junction. Word gets out. Now that the store is closed, I don’t know where the creek dwellers have gone, and the landlord is hopeful that they will not come back, and that they have found another haunt. He would like to see somebody with some money come and spruce up the place. Maybe bring in some classy wines and fancy foods, and make the little rundown store into a place that welcomes the more affluent. I see more and more of these kind of stores popping up around the town and wonder just how many the local economy can support.
Since I have lived in this area for nearly forty years, the changes I have seen have been unpredictable. Waves of prosperity have washed over the customs and culture of what the town used to be. When my older daughter was younger she had a Shetland pony. Her and her girlfriends would ride their ponies down out of the hills and go to the little old ice cream parlor for a summertime snack. A pony would have such a hard time nowadays in dealing with the traffic. It seems like when the storefronts change their face, I also change in some way. My memories are disturbed. My thoughts that life will always be the same suddenly become challenged. When I look at history books filled with photos of the way this town once appeared, I realize that I am also entering into a forgotten history, even as I live. It is so unsettling, because I settled here with the thought that I would be free from all modernization. How naÃ¯ve of me!
What has not changed is the forest of redwoods into which I look from my home, and that gives me some reassurance that not the whole world will be changed. I am just barely beyond the reach of encroaching civilization, but not by much. And if I thought about it long enough and tried hard enough to remember what the area was like before I moved here, if I could toggle time between now and then, I just might be shocked by all that has transpired. But, that’s just me, a witness to relentless change, my memory the only substance that seems to have much constancy. While reading the poem this morning written by W.B. Yeats titled “The Lake at Innisfree”, I realized that inside I continue to crave the quiet days that all around me seem to dissipate. The “deep heart’s core” of which he speaks in the last line of this poem resonates with so many. Only in writing about such things do I gain any perspective on what lives inside of me.
On another passing note, a bluejay tried to fly through the sliding glass door in our kitchen. Here is the image he left behind: