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I am reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The Annie Dillard book. It is a journey of nature and mind. Written about a creek in Virginia.
The tone, the beauty. It inspires me to write. Annie isn’t a writer. She is a painter. You can feel the wind in her words. They glow with the sunshine. There is so much beauty in every day. But we miss it because we are busy. We don’t stop. We don’t look.
And we wonder why our lives are dry and dull.
I want to write. To paint the scene on the page. If I could only learn how to type.
I am sitting on my bed spread. It is black and white. Flowers of black with a white background. On pillows in the corner. In deep sleep. My Baby Girl rests. Sound asleep. She is also black and white. She looks like a Holstein cow. I guess I don’t know cows. I thought it was a Jersey cow. Until I just checked it on Google.
Where did we get information before Google?
My bed now is a mess. Piles of books. A bag of cheese bread sticks from Wal-Mart. The books are both from the library and some I own. I read far too many books at the same time. Or rather I try to read.
Right now I think maybe I am reading five or six. Cat toys are on my bed from when I cleaned the floor.
The time for rest is nearing. I will join Baby Girl in dream land. Maybe tomorrow I will continue on my novel. But today I needed a break.
Work was good. A new worker asked me today, “you bounce around all over the place?” I replied it was just what I did. “Is that why they hired you for?” “No.”
But I like it. It is always a different day. Yesterday it was deli for most of the day. Today I spent a lot of time in Dairy stocking eggs and milk. We sell gallons and gallons of milk at our store.
Some days I push carts. Some I run the register. Some I feel like I run from one thing to the next all day long. But I still like it.
An older man asked me today to help him get some sugar off the top shelf. I’ll meet you over there I told him. There was another person with a question. Then I did something else and forgot. But then I remembered and when I turned to walk down the main aisle I could see him peaking around the corner. I apologized. But he was friendly about the whole encounter.
I am trying at work to not speak in a negative way about my co-workers. Some of them don’t make it easy. Judged by my own standards they are not performing their job duties. What I have to remember is I am not paid to monitor what they do or how they spend their time. Just focus on what is the task before me and focus on doing it the best I can. Tomorrow is day 5 of 8.
What I have to understand is my standards are mine.
So Chapter 4 and I still am not in school. Is this going the be the slowest book ever?
We got some education in the years living with my great-aunt. First grade is when I started school. We had moved to Ahwahnee. Two miles down a dirt road. We lived with a rooster. And across from a nudist.
All day he sat and watched traffic on the road. He was friends with mother. Don’t ask, I don’t want to know. Sometimes he would give us a ride to the main road, or into town. But, I have memories of walking the two miles. At least once alone. There was a berry patch along the road. We would stop and pick berries.
The rooster attacked my sister once. Maybe this is why she didn’t want to live with us. Or maybe there were other reasons.
I remember more of what people told me about first grade. Other kids said I used to pee my pants in class. The school was a couple small buildings. I went to the Fourth grade and part of the fifth grade at the same school.
Math is something I remember. Not because it was hard. It was boring. Why go over and over the same numbers. But I did my homework. I cared about my education still.
Naturally there weren’t friends so far away from people. But I had my sister. One time we got in a dirt clog war. They burst like bombs when you throw them. Sometimes the dust is like smoke. We got pink eye.
We may not have lived at this house long. My memory of the time is so sparse. Memories of mother are even more so. The house was a mess. Life couldn’t have been easy for a single woman, alone, two kids. Not to mention living two miles from civilization with no car. We didn’t have a car until I was in the fourth grade.
Growing up mother would say she couldn’t afford new clothes because of us kids.
I know the next year, I was in the second grade at a new school. Living back in Coarsegold. Also we lived at my great aunt’s for a short time. This is when mother knew my little brother’s father.
Ahwahnee is a small town. Just a few buildings, a school, a bar and a post office. The town itself was about two miles down the paved road. Then two miles on the dirt road was our place. Why would someone think to live in such a place? With two kids? No car?
Whatever length of time we lived there, the next stop was my great aunt’s. We lived down in the trailer. My sister and I spent our time going to the river, often alone. There was a tractor on the property and small road to the river. Sometimes my great aunt’s friends gave us a tractor ride.
My sister once tried to get me to eat a puffball. Not something which seemed like a good idea at the time. The property now had a small eucalyptus grove. After the rain I would shake the trees. The scent in the air, the moisture as it fell from the leaves was wonderful.
This was the last time we lived in the trailer. To mother’s credit our housing improved as we grew. We started the second grade in a new house. But it will be a new chapter.
The area I grew up in is south of Yosemite. The core town is Oakhurst. North of which on highway 49 six miles was Ahwahnee. South of Oakhurst 11 miles on Highway 41 was Coarsegold. Students from all these towns went to the same high school.
The whole area was rural. Slightly racist. Conservative and religious country. The big event in Coarsegold was the rodeo. There was a lot of ranch land. Also many people worked in Fresno, an hour south on 41.
Taco Bell came to town while I was in high school. Soon after the first traffic signal. It was at the corner with the Talking Bear. A large plastic figure. When you pushed a button it spoke about bears. Of course all the real bears were gone.
Our family was never accepted in the community. Later a school secretary told our neighbors, “oh you live by the dump.” This isn’t the place to explore white flight. But the shoe fits. People didn’t understand us.
Maybe they felt like we children needed help. Sometimes they called CPS. Or Child Protective Services. Mother had a big job, with two and then three kids. Were we in danger? Not physic danger. We ate. We weren’t hit.
We did have friends. They were few. I can’t remember most names and faces. With one exception, they were not lasting.
We can view our lives through so many lenses. The people we know and knew. The places we are and were. The things we did and do. My life has been full of places and people and things. It feels a little like a drawer of mis-matched socks.
I have said I live with my great-aunt. And her friends. It was a cult in some ways, but we will discuss more later.
The property was big. It wasn’t just one house on the land but many. Driving in from the road, the first two buildings are on the left and right. They are close to the main road, right after the ravine with the leaning tree.
We lived in the trailer on the right for a while. This is where mother dug the phone trench. I recall sleeping in this trailer. A storm brewing outside. The sound of thunder. And the light flashing in the window. We slept on bunk beds. One night the thunder was so loud it broke a transformer. We lost power.
Close to the trailer was an outhouse. Not a bathroom. Well a couple out houses. One was for storage. My aunt had the idea the other would be a school. There was a leak once near this building. Abner, one of my aunts friends on the property fixed it.
This is where we got King. The Doberman. This may be the oldest memory I have of mother’s father. He was a grumpy old man. But he was the one who gave us King as a puppy.
We lived in this trailer on and off for years. One time when we were young mother was opening a can of pasta sauce. She cut her finger and screamed. She was making such a to-do I thought. And, what was blood and what was pasta sauce?
Years later a Hispanic family lived in this trailer, until burned in a fire. This is the place me and my sister tried to run away from. Between the trailer and the main road was a field.
There are a lot of memories. We plugged up the toilet with a toothbrush. Though I don’t know why we even had a toothbrush. Mother told us about water being blue because it reflects the colour of the sky.
I learned to ride a bike while living in the trailer. There was a tire swing in the front yard. A family lived across the street. Their children would come and play.
On the left was a trailer/house where relatives of Abner lived. Lavonne and Abner owned the property. My great-aunt lived there for years. As well as another woman, Elsie. They were religious, Christian. But they had their own path. They beat pillows as a form of prayer.
When I had intestinal issues they said it was a demon of lust. When they read, “the first Noel,” it upset them. They called god, El. By the traditional Hebrew name. “no-el” meant no god to them. So they changed it to the first Ya-El. Ya being another name they accepted for god. But, there was only one. So they changed it again to “the only Ya-El.” Noël means Christmas.
But I digress. I was taking you on a tour. Up the road we see barns on the right. A gate leads to the neighbors on the left. This is where the skeleton hung. There was a water tank near the fence. Once we wrote a welcome to our great-aunt on the tank.
To the right is another trailer. I don’t recall who owned or lived in this trailer. Next to it was a pile of sheet rock. Most likely made of gypsum. We used pieces of it for chalk. To write on water tanks. Going past here, the road turns and goes up a hill. Passing over a cattle guard, the main house sits before you. It was a big house. When I was a child they added a room. This is where Lavonne’s mother lived. Where later she lived, and died. There was a yard, a green house and a small garden. Next to it was a giant water tank. We had two sources of water. One had green faucets and the other red. The red water was from the river and not to be drank. I am sure I did anyway. The green was well water for drinking and house use.
Between the house and the water tank was the path to the river. The road goes on to the right. Passed a couple of trees me and my sister used to love climbing. Further off to the left was an orchard. The upper house was where the women lived when we were children. This is the place I once cried and tried to not leave.
I was also a big house. Well in my memory. But if you’ve ever returned to your childhood home, you will wonder when it shrunk. The house had two small detached rooms, and a small shed. It also had some fruit trees. On one of those trees I got a small apple once. I tossed it at some baby chickens in folly. And killed one. Me and my sister buried it without telling anyone. But I felt terrible.
We will come back to many of these people and places again. Except for Elsie who died of cancer while I was still young.
If I had grown up any other place, I wouldn’t be me. If I hadn’t had the space to explore. It was a lot of space. And the people who helped raise me. I know they cared about me, each in their own way. But none of them could contain me and didn’t try to keep a leash on me.
The only people I ever remember respecting as a child were those adults. One time other children came down the river. They threw things at us and called us names. We went back and talked to the adults about the incident. It felt good to believe they could do something about those kids.
Those are the only adults who I ever trusted to protect me. And after I left at a young age, I stopped trusting them too. Not because I felt they didn’t care anymore, but I felt they couldn’t.
Behind the upper house was a small chicken hutch. And a fenced in area for goats, with a lower barn for the coats. And sometimes cows. There was a clothesline I once almost killed myself running into. You know the wrestling move, “the clothesline.” Well, I did it in real life. A path from the upper house went to the lower barn. But another path went into the neighboring property. It followed the fence and crossed back, to go to the lower trailer.
One thing we enjoyed as children was feeding the goats. We would gather acorns. And I don’t know why it was acorns. I remember being young and helping load hay into the barn. I thought I was so strong. They used to milk the cows in the barn, and the goats. This is what I grew up on, meat from cows raised on the land. Eggs from the backyard. Milk from our own goats.
Sounds magical doesn’t it?
I don’t have much time today. But I do feel like writing.
I had a dream last night I was climbing a trail up a cliff. It was steep. For some reason at one point I found some debris left by previous hikers. For some reason I picked it up, and it wasn’t heavy, but big. I tossed it over the edge, thinking someone could pick it up at the bottom. Only afterward did I think about the chance of it hitting someone. I kept on climbing up the trail afterwards.
This morning I feel good. I have work in a couple hours. Closing the deli. In some ways I like closing the deli because I like cleaning. Transforming dirty into clean. But as far as the time issue, it has been a problem in the past. I hate to feel rushed at anything really. Which is part of the reason I don’t write more.
Right now I feel a little rushed. I have two hours before I need to be at work. But I want to get there in time to eat, I want to shower, I want to do a few other things online. This means I don’t have time to write and write and write until I feel the moment pass.
The moment is passing quickly with or without me.