Autobiography

When we were eighteen the valley of the plums, prunes and apricots
kept us beaming. I had come from the north, from the nuclear
town on the Columbia River.

I never yearn for the desert sand in the wind, or the feeling
that above and beyond the first mountain men were doing things
not meant for the rest of the world to view, except that one of
those men was my father.

The company moved us to the new place, the California farm
town. Here the soil, worked hard by orchardists,
yielded a sweet aroma that persuaded us to be fond of the earth.

We would go to school and work the summer jobs, slicing cots
and stuffing fruit in cans all night, and then I would fall in love.
That is where the “we” enters.

I drove an old English sports car with a wooden frame and
wire-spoked wheels, a windshield that would drop down for
a full dose of the highway wind.

Dwellers arrived here quickly from afar. Some said it
was for the weather. Never very hot or cold, an incubational
paradise for the thousands of acres of fruit teees.

We had to stand back from the evening bonfires, and were sorrowful,
watching the fruit trees chopped, piled and torched.
This progress made me think of the American Indians.
I had seen them netting salmon on the Columbia River at Celilo Falls before the dams,
the gray concrete walls that turn gravity into a light bulb.
(I would like to flip a switch and turn on the river).

We asked ourselves what would be the limits of this 1960s
unbridled growth. Some were talking of expanding
to the moon, while we were considering holing up
in a mountain retreat.

The valley of the fruit became unrecognizable. Next
in my neighborhood a multi-story building slammed into the sky.
If even one could be built here, why not
one more Hong Kong?

We drove to the mountains in the spring when the western
slopes filled with wild flowers, and flew kites and laughed into the
face of the oncoming wind, and kissed. Love might
conquer all.

The ocean side of the range is where we knew we wanted to be.
Riding waves and kicking around in the kelp beds at
Pleasure Point. Less room for a building boom, unless steel platforms were
erected over the waves. Who knows that such an idea is even
now on the drawing boards.

We married and made the move and remain there still. A tiny house
built during one of the greater wars of the last century by
Hawaiian flower farmers, who knew nothing about how to
build a sturdy house, and had no blossom money for their dreams.

My dream is awake there though, the little house and the tiny rooms
that only want to hear the birds of the forest come near.
Daffodils and roses, enormous zucchinis, and an old
pear tree that I write poems about in the spring, and
two girls who love the ocean.

That’s about it. My whole autobiography composed this bright
sunny morning in the hills above San Luis Reservoir in
the central valley, where I come from time to time to write
and ponder the tall grass.

My parents are close by in the national veteran’s cemetery,
where I put them a few sad years ago.

I see some of the details are missing. It’s easy to fill
in the missing information–the story most of us might tell.
We’ve wept over the loss of farms, flowing rivers,
and fought the war against the war, and wondered
why we cannot just live in a teepee at the base of Yosemite Falls.

In the background, a steady trickle of death, disease, work.
I am guilty of confusing work with death and disease, but that’s
just my own hard-earned opinion.

There have been birthday cakes and communions, bicycle rides
and Monterey fish eating, candles burning in winter storms,
old tool sheds full of her paintings, a stack of notebooks with
my scribbling.

The valley of the fruit continues stacking buildings.
The redwoods here continue growing.

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