Friday, September 30, 2011

another excerpt for new book

Auburn Road

I cry on Auburn Road – sometimes – because Stu and I, together, drove the rural five mile stretch from our house to the fairgrounds thousands of times. Our children learned to drive on Auburn Road, and it became their way to town and school. Besides that, Stu and I de-trashed Auburn Road twice a year, and so came to know the intimate features of the roadside. Besides that . . .
When my son, Gregory, was in middle school, I transported him and his bike to the ranch (now a nine hole golf course) where by the light of dawn he relocated irrigation pipes. When the sun rose, he rode his bike to school. My pride in that boy-just-becoming-a-man squeezes my heart to this day.
I remember the last time Stu and I drove together on Auburn Road. It was a week before he passed away. We were returning from the hospital after a pain-relieving procedure. I observed that it was a beautiful day, bright and cold. I cherished the fact that Stu sat beside me, and though his head was bowed, his hand was resting on my hand. I can still feel his hand; a touch memory. I thought, “I will remember these minutes for the rest of my life; we are together, we are in our car, on our road; there is no other reality now, and we will not die today.
Auburn Road is a segment of the original 49er trail, still quite rural even though there are numerous modest residences, tucked away in the trees as well as a few small ranches. The vegetation is native: oaks and pines, meadows, wetlands, and some chaparral. The people are, for the most part, refugees from cities and suburbia, and they have chosen Auburn Road because they love it. There is also a sizable piece of BLM land on Auburn Road which ought to be a park.
Drivers using Auburn Road as a shortcut drive too fast and tailgate. Bicyclists use the corridor, but I don't know why; it has punishing hills, blind curves, a narrow shoulder. I even find it harrowing to walk on Auburn Road, much less ride a bicycle. Ah! but Auburn Road is a beautiful drive: it is essentially “country.” It bursts with iridescent green in the springtime, yellow leaves scatter on the road in the fall. In the winter, the lower elevations may be dusted with snow while slightly higher, the trees and brush are mantled with snow. In summer, there is a coalescence of scents from oaks and pines, blackberries, creeks and sun-baked brush and red dust that makes one feel well and hopeful . . . and young.
Tomorrow, I will drive Auburn Road again.   

Monday, September 19, 2011

excerpts for a New Book

The Long Haul . . .

. . . was an expression my father used. “Over the long haul,” we will accomplish this or that. In other words, patience and perseverance are in order.
When I visualize the long haul, I see lumbering wagons, pulled by long-suffering horses, laboring in a desolate landscape that is intolerably hot or intolerably cold, and always accompanied by thirst. The long haul takes endurance and courage.
I have had my share of long hauls: pregnancy, some teaching assignments, certain tasks like moving, house and yard work, learning to sew, type, use the computer - or other painful life adjustments. The long hauls are so long that when they are over, the “over” feels unreal, or . . . they are so long that they seem to be endless, and the process is not pleasurable for the most part.
My father called trips “long hauls,” because for him, they were. For me, trips were, and are, liberating. For me, the most mind-bending long hauls are those where the outcome is uncertain – like trips undoubtedly were for my father.
When I was eight, my father invited me on a trip, a “long haul.” It stands out in memory for me, and always will, as perfectly wonderful! We took the night bus from Pasadena to Oakland. I slept, leaning against my father. How wonderful! We spent the next morning in a park, where my father took a nap on the grass, and I played in wet sand at the edge of a little lake. In the afternoon, we took the bus to Walnut Creek where my father had business, where I tagged around the little town with him, feeling very important. In the evening, we went to see Captain Horatio Hornblower at the Paramount Theater in Oakland (and then we took the night bus back to Pasadena). The theater was like something out of a little girl's dream, all gilded, curlicued, and gorgeous. I can still see the color and hear the kettle drums in the movie. I can still hear my father saying, “That movie was worth the trip.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

another new excerpt for new book

Memory Serves

One year, Stu and I went to Pasadena to see the Rose Parade. We stayed with my sister in Hollywood, and went early in the morning so that we could find parking and locate our seats on the bleachers. Our plan was to go for an early morning walk after that – which we did.
During the walk, I said to Stu, “I know where I am, even though I was last here at age 10.”
Stu said, “Huh, and hum.”
“Walk with me, and I will show you.” I was excited and dreamy.
Without a blip, I took him to Saint Philip's which was a few blocks away. I predicted, and then showed him, where my second grade classroom had been located, where the church was located, where out hideout on the bottom of the basement stairs was located.
Then a believer, he walked with me to my kindergarten/first grade school: Hamilton School. Again, I predicted, and showed him the terrace on the kindergarten room. I told him about how I had escaped kindergarten by climbing over the balustrade and running home. The predicted big tree at the entrance to the school was no longer there, but the stump of some giant was hidden in the grass.
After that, we walked to Seneca Street. There were residences I remembered; Pasadena-style bungalows with shrubbery and exotic trees. I described two busy streets that had to be crossed in order to walk from Saint Philip's to Seneca Street: Allen and San Marino; I even remembered the names of those streets.
Seneca Street was still a dead-end, and some of the houses were as I remembered – except for a condo where the orchard and windmill had been. 2426 was smaller than I remembered it, of course. The privet hedge had been replaced with roses. The apricot trees were gone. There was an addition where the big porch had been. But . . . wonder of wonders, I could see the top of the avocado tree in the back yard, leaves as big and shiny as ever.
“Did you get in trouble for escaping Kindergarten?” asked Stu, sliding sideways into my dream.
I remembered the scent as I skipped home; it was peppery, because on the sidewalk, minute fruits, fallen from dark foliage overhead, had been squashed underfoot.