My Blog List

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Cliff swallows in dozens gathered mud with which to mold their globular nests.

      Flicker and red shouldered hawk shed feathers.
Violets and trillium.

Pomegranate blossoming profusely after a wet winter.

Sharptail snake hoping to be invisible by hiding her eyes under a bent straw.

St John's wort.

Garden beds.

Thunder, lightening, and hail brewing on June 11.


The storm cleared after thirty minutes.

Night Studio.


I saw a sign, which revived a name associated with this place since the Benson family trekked across the continent to homestead in this valley. If the Bensons have moved on, the place and the name survives. Locally, the Benson name conjures tales of identical twins reduced to a diet of shoe leather in Death Valley, of Pomo artistry at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, of witness to a historical massacre, cultural mediation, racial blending, narrow escapes from grizzly bears, and the farming of pears.

Bill, the lawn mower repair master has died, leaving behind his self-made memorial pile of mowers, which appear to rival the floral tributes left for Princess Diana. As an artist ages and contemplates death, he might wonder if his own life's work will end up similarly.

 Charles Demuth's, My Egypt, his painting of totemic mid-western grain elevators, came to mind as I walked by the pear and walnut packing sheds.

A couple of vultures attended the victim of vehicular fox slaughter. They risked their own lives for a meal in the road. I moved the fox well away on the shoulder.

The oak has seen the little town of Kelseyville grow up around it in the past 150 years.


The sense of space in the Valley Oak Savanna changes radically through the months of April and May as the great trees first flower and then leaf out, forming dense canopies.

To walk in their shelter is to feel an aura of remembrance. 
When ancient lake bed clay and silt was exposed as waters receded, acorns took root. The pioneering generations of oaks in Big Valley provided fodder for ground sloths, camelids, early horses, and prototypical grizzlies. Humans reached the valley ten thousand years ago, killing off most of the megafauna. But grizzlies, deer and elk continued to frequent the woodlands. Directly, the oak's acorns became the central source of sustenance for the humans.

Trees alive today can be 600-years-old and 70' tall. A tree that age spent three quarters of its life in the company of the Pomo peoples and grizzlies. It sheltered General Vallejo's wandering cattle herds during the Mexican period. The creek-side Valley Oaks were fertilized by shoals of rotting hitch, which after spawning, were often stranded as creek water levels subsided. 

These long-surviving trees stood as the first Anglo-Americans arrived and subjugated and enslaved the local Pomo. Some trees today might well have served as hanging trees.

The new Americans built their first homesteads in the micro-climates beneath the oaks.
Relentlessly, they cleared over ninety percent of the valley's oak savannas, replacing them with fields of wheat, and orchards of pears and walnuts.

On a four mile walk around our agricultural block, I see remnants of the ancient savannah, richly inhabited oases of life punctuating the farm monoculture.