Travel Journals – When Less is More

me & g-girlsLooking out Amtrack’s over-sized train window, my three grandchildren and I decide what we’ll draw in the Travel Journals I gave them.  I share my own tiny journal filled with ink and watercolor memories of Hawaii, Utah’s Red Canyons, Italy, friends and family. My favorite pages are scenes looking out windows.

I think Travel Journals have a unique way of capturing memories.  Photographs may mirror reality, diaries describe with word-filled pages, but with a few wispy brush strokes and well- chosen words, my Travel Journal reflects the essence of my experience.

Unlike my talent for finding  just the right word to describe a scene or feeling, my drawing abilities stopped in 5th grade when art was dropped from the curriculum.  As an adult, I took art classes, hoping to learn to draw something more representative than my primitive head profile with bulbous nose and thin mouth plopped on a flat face.  No luck.

So I now just sketch impressions – a few brush strokes for a waving hand,  M&S 2purposely wiggly lines for squared buildings, a single up-curved mouth on a face, you get the idea.  Like brush strokes, I add a few spontaneous words to the page and Voila!  – a treasure journal of richly-remembered memories.

 Prity Truckee River

Prity Truckee River

As our train chugged along the tracks over the Sierras to Reno, the grandchildren started their journals like natural artists and writers.

The phonetically spelled “Traval Churnals” (!) were filled with 5, 7, and 9 year old drawings of Autumn color on the Truckee River, Papa’s profiled head, distant Sierra Nevada Mountains, close-up river rocks, ducks and later, a pink sunrise through the hotel window.

Mountain Sunset

Mountain Sunset

No one said “I can’t draw,” or “this isn’t good.”

 Reno Ducks

Reno Ducks

I’ve been working on enjoying life more with less shoulds, less structure, less control and less things.  And in my writing, working on replacing wordiness with a few brush-stroked words, trusting that readers will fill in with their own experiences and imagination.

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

Day 1 – A Personal Writing Retreat

The Old Pendola Ranch

The Old Pendola Ranch

As I turned off Highway 49 onto Pendola Road, traveling to the Skyline Harvest Retreat Center, it was like traveling through time.  I followed what was once a narrow dirt road that early Gold Rush settlers had carved from the hills,  scanning the downslope for vestiges of old mines and water ditches while staying alert for on-coming cars around the many blind curves.   Further along, the woods opened up into the pastoral Pendola Ranch  – where hillsides were once covered with vineyards until Prohibition stepped in and hacked the copper stills to pieces.

.Road into Skyline Harvest

Passing through the gate to Skyline Harvest

Bullards Bar ReservoirBullards Bar Reservoir is to my left.

I settle into The Hermitage.  It’s too perfect!

The Hermitage

 A corner table for eating and writing, a futon couch, meditation chair and kitchen fill up the main room.  The single bed is in an alcove tucked behind a folding wooden screen, and a modern bathroom with shower is in a separate room. Two chairs wait on the deck for watching wildlife in the small clearing outside.

Work Table

Bedroom AlcoveKitchen

11 AM.  Food, books, laptop, clothes all in place, I fix a bowl of soup and watch the rain drizzle outside.  After a short nap and cup of coffee, it’s time to write.  I’ve decided arbitrarily to set a goal of 7,500 words for these 48 hours.  Let’s see – that comes to 156 words an hour.  Can I write in my sleep?  I plunge ahead, not knowing where my story is going next.

Though I know the general arc of my novel, The Desk, I’ve learned to quiet my mind with meditation before starting, then have faith that the characters will surprise me.  And they do. Like today, Hummer appeared.  I’m mid-way through the future section – Year 2088 – my prospective  great-granddaughter Amisha’s story of struggling to survive on a planet irreparably damaged by man’s impact.   Hummer and his woman, Rapalini are one of the old folks who fled to the hills early on.  What do they know?

3:30 PM.  I’m startled by a knock on the door. It’s Diane Pendola who (along with Teresa Hahn) founded and is Director of Skyline Harvest.  I’ve asked for some of her time to help me think  things through – drawing on her experience with indigenous wisdom, Gestalt Therapy, theology, The Enneagram and her mentors, Ramon Panikar, Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, to name a few.

I’m interested in the questions raised in my story –  not so much the answers.  Diane asks if mankind can move  from an era that’s been shaped by man’s ability to circumvent the natural checks and balances of nature,  into one that recognizes that we are part of a universal consciousness? If not, what kind of world will Amisha live in?  That’s where my story goes.

We jump up two hours later – time has flown into the dinner hour.  Diane departs, and I take a cool walk along the firebreak road to watch the golden sun set into the departing clouds.

Skyline Sunset

Skyline Sunset

A fox scurries past as I return to The Hermitage and prepare my dinner, heating with the wood stove instead of the gas range.  My gourmet husband has sent me here with a chicken cacciatora, a beef stew, garden salad, and a bottle of red wine.  He’s amazing and I’m so lucky!

After dinner, I check my word count.  Yikes, only 366 words!!  This is going to be a long evening!  But then, that’s what I’m here for.

But my cello also calls me.  I unzip its case intending to practice a few scales, but  instead, I  play for an hour – improvising in  C minor harmonic – a moody, searching key. Crickets add a chirping accompaniment, though I’m too tired to see if there’s any correlation with my playing.

10 PM.  Off to bed.  Got lots of words to write tomorrow!

September 30, 2013

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

Nature Forced into Unnatural Acts.

Row of trees cut for powerlineIt’s such a common sight near power lines, but every time I see this, my heart aches for the beheaded tree.

It was growing there long before man ran his electricity in straight lines and chopped off anything that got in his way.

 

Driving across the Sacramento Valley to Woodland where my ancestors settled during  the Gold Rush, I took lots of photos.

Most were scenes of vibrant mustard flowers carpeting the ground of cloudy pink fruit orchards. But some Mustard in fruit orchardorchards were bereft of any ground vegetation.Furrowed field I thought the fields of dark earth all furrowed and ready for planting were stunning at first, until I noticed the absolute absence of weeds.        Hmmmm.

Man’s need supersedes that of  nature most times.  I’ve learned recently that oil companies are hovering like bees a bit south in the central valley in one of the richest deposits of oil in the United States called the Monterey Shale.  Get ready for the next Gold Rush made possible by hydraulic fracking.

Fracking creates fractures in rocks thousands of feet below the surface by injecting them with water laced with chemicals and sand, allowing oil or gas to flow out.  Fracking received a specific exception from the Clean Water Act in the 2005 Energy Bill, so oil companies don’t have to reveal what chemicals they use.

Again, with no regard to Mother Earth, some 30 chemicals including hydrochloric acid, are injected into her body to extract oil. Fracking and disposal of fracking waste has been linked to groundwater pollution, drinking water contamination and earthquakes.

How long until Earth fights back, like an abused woman who’s finally had enough?  In the meantime, as Dick always says, Go Gently.

Links to read more on the Monterey Shale:

http://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/fracking-boom-looms-in-californias-monterey-shale/

http://www.newtimesslo.com/cover/6555/californias-silent-oil-rush/

Thanks Debra!

Migration

Swans in Rice Field

Swans in Rice Field

I was surrounded by a cacophony of swans and geese.  Such a perfect word for the exuberant conversation of migratory Tundra Swans, Snow, Ross and White-Fronted Geese that  arrive every winter to the flooded rice fields in the upper Sacramento Valley.  I spent the afternoon with them recently, amazed as I imagine people have always been at this seasonal flyway.

Two hundred years ago, a Patwin woman – one of the valley tribes I write of in my book – might have looked up at the first honks of returning swans, knowing it was the time for gathering acorns and manzanita berries.  Spanish, Mexican, then European settlers from the east probably saw the migration as the arrival of protein for their winter larder.  But for me, it’s the anticipated arrival of wonder.

People migrate – some.  Migrant workers follow the ripening of spring lettuce and winter squash.  As a rural school nurse, I knew certain families would show up in the spring when the weather was warm enough to camp out at the river.  They stayed until the first frost, then moved on.  Now it’s the seasonal folks who arrive in fall with their trimming scissors to work the local cash crop.  When the harvest’s done, they too move on.

I wonder how the long-term impact of climate change will affect the signals that trigger migration?    2012 was the hottest year on record – a recent report by NOAA  (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Earlier springs, longer, hotter summers, harsher wildfires, droughts, crop losses. Will my great grandchildren tell their children of the days when swans used to overwinter where farmers used to grow rice in the Sacramento Valley?

Stone mileage marker hidden in rice fields

Stone marker hidden in rice fields

Mileage marker between Marysville and  foothill towns

Mileage marker between Marysville and foothill towns

I like my present-time roots.  I feel them deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but I also feel them across the valley where my ancestors settled in 1849.  I like making that trek. I feel the pull of my own winter migration when the returning swans call me to drop what I’m doing, and meet them in the valley.

Evolution of The Desk

Stone Portal 2Do we have the ability to influence our ancestors?  Or our future descendants?  On a restless night several years ago, I found these thoughts changing the course of my novel.

I started out inspired to write about my Great Grandmother Emily who settled during the 1849 Gold Rush in the Sacramento Valley.   But I didn’t want to write yet another biography of a head-strong, determined western woman.  The book shelf’s already full of those!  So I stepped back to look at the larger landscape.

3. Misty Autumn Back Road.Camptonville 11.07Of course…we’re all spirit, and if time transcends the here and now, we all have access to each other’s lives.  What if I could slip back into my great-grandmother’s life and tell her what she’d need to know that might ward off future ecological devastation?  Or hear my great-granddaughter imploring me to build now what she’d need to survive when she returns to our abandoned homestead in the far future?

PetroglyphAnd what if we’re all connected by the vision of an ancient woman of wisdom who saw it all?  Shima’a found a portal that transcended time.  From the heartwood of an oak tree (that as an acorn grew from her heart when she died), a small oak writing desk became her means of inspiring women to gather their power and create new ways of living together. The old, aggressive masculine constructs have run their course. If earth and humanity are to survive, the feminine has to ascend.

 

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.

Welcome to My Blog

California Landscapes of Women, Words and Wonder.

sun crop 2

It’s five in the morning and this is my first entry.  It’s also the dark of night, my best time for writing.  Like slipping between the covers of dreamtime and daylight – a very thin space where the two relax into each other and birth words that neither could have done alone.

What will you find on these pages?  You’re probably as curious as I am.  If you know me personally, you may have come here as a friend to touch base, see what’s up.  Or you may be someone who’s heard about my novel-in-progress, The Desk, or have read sections from it and return to feel its texture.  I was approached recently by two casual acquaintances who asked when the book would be ready.  They wanted to read more.  Derelyn and Michelle, this blog’s for you!

I anticipate this blog will be my way of telling a fuller story.  Originally, my novel was just that – a historical fantasy of what it might have been like to have lived my Great-Grandmother Emily Hoppin’s life.  Though I never met her, she’s my family heroine – arriving in California soon after the 1849 Gold Rush, settling in the small farming town of Yolo near Sacramento.  Emily was widely known as a woman of principal whose articulate words, both written and spoken, influenced the future of women and the land in turn-of-the-century California.  I have her scrapbook filled with speeches and newspaper articles about her.   I feel her in my blood.

In future blogs, I’ll describe how her personal life morphed into a fictional story, then morphed again into a fantasy that spans three generations of women, all interconnected by a secret held within the family desk.  Present, past and future, if you will.

This blog is my three-dimensional tic-tac-toe game where I can play with time, history (real and imagined) and see the world as it could be.

If you’re interested in History, there will be  sections on early California.  Geneology?  I’ll post what I have about the real lives my book is based on. California Landscape:  I’ll have photos and descriptions of nature’s wonders and their changes over time.  Concern for the Future:  I’ll not only describe my own impressions, but will link to other projections of where the earth is headed based on our past and current practices.  Collective Power of the Feminine: Here’s a place where I take heart that the growing bonds of feminine (not just women’s) energy will bring a powerful caring and protection for our earth.   And last, Creative Writing.  I’ll include sections of The Desk and write about how I pull all this together

I’m looking forward to your feedback – tell me what works for you, suggest nooks and crannies to explore, share your own thinking and keep me moving forward!