Sunday, May 27

Valley Of The Saints

Chapter 1:

PLACE


The name came from somewhere, but no one knows its origin with any precision. Legend has it the name was lifted from obscure Spanish literature, the name of a queen ruling a beautiful place. Whatever the truth, the name of the place breathes myth, dream, illusion, hope, fantasy; all of them false, all of them true. The place defies description.

The place is California.

In geography it is a active tectonic region of the North American Pacific coast. In ecology it is a region of diverse biomes: forest, grassland, alpine, glacial, riparian, estuarine, desert. In history it is a colony of Spain, a destination of pioneers, the globe’s headline of gold discovery, an engine of civil war, the birthplace of mass entertainment and accessible technology. In art it is the inspiration of John Muir, Ansel Adams, and The Doors. In sociology it is the experiment of immigration, of civil engineering, of ideas conservative and liberal. In culture it has been alternately exalted, vilified, questioned, desired, ignored.

These descriptions are incomplete. The place is a debate of contradictions, a garden of errors, a library of miscalculation. California refuses all interpretations. California exists on its own terms, an incomparably beautiful and frustrating meld of many states of being.

One state of California is Dreams Come True. Throughout the world Hollywood is the epitome of success, charisma, and power. From orange groves to MGM Studios to Disneyland, it is what we all wish we could be. But we must know it is a cheat, ignoring its past and peddling a brightness of the future few of us will ever experience. This is southern California's contribution: the reach toward something better.

A second state of California is Search’s End. America is predicated on the ideal of hard work, ability, and opportunity. In the days before automated transportation, California was the end. Start in Pennsylvania, then work hard to St. Louis, then keep going. If Kansas is filled up, go through Indian Territory. Cross the unfriendly expanses, the bleak deserts, the last unknowns. There is a Great Valley at the end, a farm and ranch paradise for those who endure hardship. This is central California's contribution: work hard and it will come.

A third state of California is Find Your Fortune. Gold! Nothing grabs human greed like stories of treasure waiting for someone to pick it up. Russian, Chinese, Irish, Yankee, Johnny Reb, rich, poor, illiterate, we all have an equal chance. This is mountain California's contribution: take chances, but beware the consequences.

A fourth state of California is Austerity. Bare rock. Borax. Minimal silver. Twenty mule teams. Heat. Heat. Shimmering waves of heat. Drought. More heat. An experience overlooked. This is desert California's contribution: disregard importance. Do what you do. When you are done, stop.

A fifth state of California is Take It Or Leave It. You are free to be anything and everything you want to be. You are free to express your self in any way you choose: flambouyant and humanitarian, selfish and dull, avant garde and unorthodox, opinionated, accepting, apathetic, anything at all, no matter what others may think. Come here and be free! This is coastal California’s contribution: Live how you will, find kindred spirits, but know you may not be accepted elsewhere.

A sixth state of California is Be Quiet and See. From towering redwood groves to endless slopes of ponderosa pine, from the rumbling power of a coastal storm to the placid silence of a mountain lake, from a massive whale's migration to a tiny pika's hibernation, from lands of steam, fumeroles, and temblors to the lands of rock, snow, and ice; all of this, all the unbelievable grandeur of it, is yours for the experiencing. You just need to slow down and see with more than your senses. Respect it, and it will heal you. This is Northern California's contribution: life is not a race, live quietly and in harmony with nature, there is so much that is so much greater than yourself.

There are a hundred or so other states of California, but the underlying asset of them all is Abundance. Timber, salmon, land. Literature, engineering, politics. Grazing, drilling, damming. Soil, water, pelts. No matter how one perceives it, there is no denying that California is an exceptionally generous example of Mother Earth’s fertility. Fruits, grains, dairy, eggs, vegetables: all have been shipped throughout the world from California’s farms, orchards, and ranches great and famous, small and unknown.

There is a place, unrecognized among those hundred or so, sixty miles south of San Francisco at the muddy and fertile end of the famous bay. This place is lost in the renown of the crab pots, sourdough rounds, Chinatown, Gold Rush, and social excess of the Barbary Coast. This place has been named, in different decades, Silicon Valley and Valley of the Heart’s Delight. It has a history rich in Spanish colonialism, the literature of Jack London and John Steinbeck, neo-renaissance conservation, agriculture, and rolling hills of black trunked live oak, golden grass, red-tailed hawks, green mustard, and orange poppies.

It is The Valley of the Saints: Santa Clara and San Jose.

In this place I was born.

2 comments:

rennratt said...

It sounds like a beautiful place.

Continue, please.

tiff said...

Chapter 2 best be coming soon.

It's posts like this that make me wantot shrivel up and die that I put such utter crap out on a daily basis. What a pleasure to read.