the geometry of vineyards

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy, Californian poppy, golden poppy, California sunlight, cup of gold) is a species of flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family, native to the United States and Mexico. It’s an ornamental plant also sometimes used medicinally and in cooking. It became the official state flower of California in 1903.

California ~
a tapestry stitched
from flaxen hills and turquoise seas
threaded with the twists and turns
of fault lines and of mad rivers
rich in jumping salmon caught
by bears at home in redwood forests
the citrus groves are shot with yellow and orange
the geometry of vineyards neatly graphed

© 2017, Jamie Dedes


We continue with the current recommended read: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Left, right or center – American or not – it’s a must read.

LESSON EIGHT: Stand out. “Someone has to.  It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange or different.  But without that unease there is no freedom.  remember Rosa Parks.  The moment you set an example, the spell o the status quo is broken and others will follow.  Prof. Snyder,  On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

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Another Kind of Beauty, a poem

Big Sur, Northern California

they’re paralyzed on the Atlantic seaboard under
the weight of snow drifts, the detritus of blizzards;
stark bare branches of oak, elm and maple
etch dark veins into an icy-gray cast-over sky

on the West Coast we’re breaking out magnolias
and blades of spring-tender grass are unfurling;
the slight warmth temps us to pull early spring
around like a wool blanket or a congenial blessing

along the stretch of Big Sur the sea strikes stone
and the air explodes, bright and wet with spume,
the green patinated-brine salts our mouths; and
above us cloud turrets mimic white-capped waves

standing here, consumed by this seeming infinity,
our hands and eyes and mind are in cahoots to
imitate nature in the most apt way they’re able
with our sketch pad, pen and colored pencils

a quick wingless flight into that dancing sea and
we surface with visions grasped tight in our fists,
our eyes are blinded by a palette of colors, our
pencils bear witness to the gift of another morning,
another kind of beauty; undulating, animated
and so unlike the silent white majesty of snow

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved;  photograph of Big Sur 2008 courtesy of Diff under CC BY-SA 3.0 license


The recommended read for this week for children, Pizza, Pigs and Poetry: How to Write a Poem by the children’s poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky,  named the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

Pizza, Pigs and Poetry, How to Write a Poem is ideal for children grades 3-6.  He engages by sharing funny stories, light poems and creative technique, not forms. This seems entirely perfect for encouraging – not discouraging – this age group. Fun and funny Pizza, Pigs and Poetry would make great summer reading – and writing – and is perfect for a birthday gift or a gift for some other occasion.


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HONORING THE TRUE HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

Eel River, Humboldt County, California

Eel River, Humboldt County, California

The Wiyot lived in the Humboldt Bay area of Northern California and they live in my dreams. For about a year-and-half we made our home in Humboldt County, an area about 200 miles north of San Francisco on the far North Coast. It’s a place dense with redwood forests, wild rivers, and creeks that run dry in the summer and overflow in the winter. If you live in a rural area or grew up in one, you might take such things for granted. Having lived in paved-over cities all my life, they seemed magical to me.

Our four acres were rich with sequoia, madrone, oak, and twenty-eight fruit trees. Blue jays flew in to feed in the morning. Quail families visited at night. They marched down our drive in orderly formation. Hawks and hummingbirds put on air shows. Rosemary thrived unattended. There was a beautiful lush 100-year-old rosebush. There were wild roses too. They gifted us hips for homemade cough syrup.

Scotch Broom

Scotch Broom

The colors there were brilliant and varied: smog-free blue skies (you could see the stars at night!), rich brown earth, a population of purple iris in a grove of California bay laurel, orange cosmos and red dahlias, yellow scotch broom lining our creek-side in the company of cascading Japanese quince. The Japanese quince provided ample housing for Rufus hummingbirds. Nearby, Queen Ann’s lace stood unbent by the wind. When it went to seed we collected the seeds for cooking. They have a taste somewhere between carrot and caraway.

The spread of blackberry bushes was both wonder and wealth. They seemed never to run out of fruit. I gathered some almost every morning for breakfast and every morning I thought of the women in buckskins who preceded me more than a century ago. Perhaps there was a mother who stood on this spot, picking blackberries for her son too.

I think the peace, quiet and simplicity of that place made it easy to imagine the first peoples as they might have lived there in other times. I could see them tending fires, boiling and drying acorns and then grinding them for flour, bathing in the river, raising their children, gathering wood, hunting and enjoying sacred ceremony. I knew the very same ancient sequoia that watched over us had watched over them.

Humboldt Bay near Eureka, traditional Wiyot lands

Qual-a-wa-loo (Humboldt Bay) near Eureka, traditional Wiyot lands, The 1860 Wiyot Massacre happened on Indian Island

Finally, I did some research. I was sad but not surprised to find that the area was once inhabited by an indigenous people –  the Wiyot people – who were decimated in a genocide ~

Wiyot Mother and Child

Wiyot Mother and Child

“Eureka newspapers of the time exulted at the night massacres conducted by the “good citizens of the area”. Good haul of Diggers and Tribe Exterminated! were 2 headlines from the Humboldt Times. Those who thought differently about it were shut up by force. Newspaper publisher and short story writer Bret Harte called it “cowardly butchery of sleeping women and children” — then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob that smashed his printing presses.” MORE [Wiyot Tribal Council Page]

Note: Originally written in 2012, I’ve posted this today as a an acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12. More than 40 US jurisdictions celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the majority of these have replaced Columbus Day with this holiday, but some jurisdictions celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In addition to reading here, please also treat yourself to Michael Watson’s post Silence, Story, and Healing, a short and thoughtful piece.

© 2012, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ Eel River by Jan Kronsell and released into the worldwide public domain; Scotch Broom by Danny S. – 001 under CC BY-SA 3.0; Humboldt Bay near Eureka by Tony via Wikipedia and Licensed under CC A 2.0 Generic; Wiyot Mother and Child, Humboldt State University

WRITING PROMPT

Perhaps you too grew up in a time and place where the history books taught a one-sided view of the land you live on and the people who originated there. Perhaps, like me, you had to get out of school and meet new people, read books that weren’t sanctioned by academic authority and do your own research to learn about the devastation that was  and is rained upon indigenous people all over the world … the violence, the slavery and the genocide. Perhaps you are a descendent of the original people who suffered so and know the truth from the stories of your elders. Perhaps your roots are in the nations of empire and you are saddened that they perpetrated or were complicit in such unimaginable injustice.

We can’t change what happened in the past but as writers and poets we can make sure that lies aren’t propagated and that the truth is told and shared. Write a poem, short story, essay or article that illustrates some aspect of colonialism, racial bias and stereotype, or the modern complications of colonial history.

Monsters Rose, a poem

IMG_3835Monsters rose from scenes gone by
And things once green lie down and die
While hoary sighs from glaciers stream
Mountains shiver in warming steam
Bays, gulfs and oceans wealth abort
As oil spills spew, smother and thwart
And man leaves earth in sad deface
His husbandry a vast disgrace

“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Note: I generally dislike rhymed poetry and don’t particularly care for this. No idea why it came out this way but it does say what I want it to say. 

© 2016, poem and illustration, Jamie Dedes, All right reserved