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Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Garden and The Serpent

In Big Valley, I contemplated an oak tree. In 1848 this tree already towered above a slough of the creek. That was the year the first white person settled in the valley. The tree provided a living for Pomo Indians, grizzly bears, tule elk, black tail deer, acorn woodpeckers and scrub jays. The tree stands in the summer of 2013 among the remnant groves of the former forest of valley oaks. The ancient lake, the dormant volcano and the chaparral cloaked foothills are still here as are swathes of tule reeds and small schools of hitch. For all its roads, towns, orchards, packing sheds and casinos, the valley still resembles it's primordial self.
In the Nineteenth Century, tales were told on the emigrant trails of edenic valleys among the coastal ranges of California. While crossing the vast, life-threatening desolation of the Basin and Range Country, pioneers placed great faith in these tales. Survival would be staked on the effort of crossing roadless mountains to a place which offered water, fish, timber and deep soils in which crops could be planted. These storied valleys comprise a tiny percentage of Western lands, oases abutted by the vast desolation of lands hostile to human life.
Before the damming of the rivers and the development of industrial scale irrigation in California's Central Valley, these small intermountain valleys were the small farmer's Promised Land.

A raccoon, in hungry exploration of the bottom of the stock tank, left footprints in red algae.  

Coon tracks/ Crook necks.

Crossing Dry Creek at the Cutoff.

Up the fig tree.

The edenic valley produces bountifully. Deadly serpents are usually discreet enough not to venture into the orchards and gardens, preferring the rougher edges of the valley.