Monday, July 10, 2006

valley of the moon

The last time I visited my mother in Sonoma we returned to the house where she grew up along Castle Road just to take a peek. The house is still there although the property around it, where my grandfather kept his workshop surrounded by a whole assortment of farm animals (the big scary bull is strongest in my memory, although there were horses and sheep and pigs and turkeys here, too) is now covered with Ravenswood vines. My grandparents sold the property in the early 80s.

For some reason this image has been dancing around my mind all weekend. We’re driving along the railroad tracks that are hidden by those gloriously tall eucalyptus trees; their scent hangs heavy in the air. My mother tells me a story I’d never heard before: that her father, my grandfather, was in the habit of pulling over on his way home and here, by the tracks, he would dump out his ashtray, filled with cigarette butts.

The litter-freak in me recoils spontaneously. And then she continues: Hobos used to live along this stretch of track – the shelter was particularly good here – and the butts were for them. He’d dump the ashes at the same spot every time; every time he returned it was picked clean.

It’s the Sonoma summertime that’s been swimming through my head all weekend; that sweet scent and gentle breeze; lit by a moon that always seems larger here than anywhere else. And out of the corner of my eye a scene that story and castaway memory awakens for me, where glowing cigarettes hang like statellites around a fire in the dark.

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