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Napa 3: Yes, There Was Writing Too

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P1000198My back yard has acquired its post-rain carpet of green.  When it first appears I can’t tell which plants will be weeds and which will be wildflowers.  I feel a bit that way about the results of my participation in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.  I’m sorting out my drafts of poems and my new ideas and deciding which pieces have most potential.

Many of my poems centered on the past.  Perhaps this was because I was back in California where I grew up, though the Napa Valley wasn’t part of my home turf.  Perhaps it was because when one has 20 hours to produce a poem, one goes back to basics.  Here’s one piece which may be complete in itself, having taken the shape of a tanka.  The assignment was to show passage of time:

Almond blossoms in spring,
tiger lilies in summer.  Our height
marked on the door post.
Before my brother grows tall,
the house is no longer ours.

Another piece is too short for a tanka, too long for haiku.  Perhaps it is the beginning or end of a longer poem, though right now the rest isn’t working.

Prunes, apricots,
cannery by the tracks.  I bury questions
in my grandfather’s orchard.

Since I’ve been working on a different poem about trying to put my ancestors behind me, I may put this aside for a while.  I have researched all the main lines of my ancestry and after writing John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher (see Books page) I thought I was done.  But here is my grandfather and his orchard once again.P1000200

Meanwhile, in a corner of my yard not as covered in new green shoots, a little clump of purple mat, my favorite local wildflower, is flourishing.  It didn’t have to wait for the rain to get started.  And I have lots of other material to work with while I decide what to do with my new pieces from Napa..

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Napa Valley, Land of Sun and Wind

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Napa and its valley are known for wineries, and the territory lives up to expectations.  There are fields of grapes everywhere you look.  I even found a small plot of grapes in a small park in St. Helena, the town where our conference was held.grapes in park

There was a vineyard across the street from where our conference met.  The first day I had time to wander over for a closer look, the plants looked much like the one in the park, the grapes tucked among the leaves.  The next day I went back with my camera and found this:grapes in field

My guess is that this is to give the grapes more sun.  This would also make them easier to pick, but I think the savings in labor at that point would be balanced out by the work of pulling each laden vine down.

My hotel didn’t serve breakfast until 7:00, so I was often up and working on my writing assignments before then.  One morning I looked at the usually empty field outside my window and saw:balloon 1

Though New Mexico is famous for its balloon events, I had never seen one being filled.  A slow process, requiring patience, and from the look of the number of people walking around, considerable co-operation and precision. balloon 2

I continued to watch until the balloon left the ground.   Two people remained behind to fold up the ground cloths which had protected the balloon from the dirt. balloon up

By the time  I left for my workshop, I could find no trace of the balloon in the sky.