Leathery fingers and memories reflect from tinted glass
by Gary Bacon

Shirley has the grip of a person who knows, first hand, the fruits of the earth. Silently her past speaks outs from her leathery hands and fingers.

In my youngest memory, I have fearlessly climbed the trees of my grandfather. I have picked apples long before they were ripe. Yes, green and sour to the taste, kind of like youth, untamed and ready for life’s raw adventures. My grandfather was from pioneer stock. He, like his grandfathers before him, toiled to bring life out of the dry, clay earth that we call the Santa Cruz Mountains--apple and cherry trees to nourish hard-workin’ people. Why, even the souls of pioneers, long laid to rest, would rise up from their Soquel grave at the smell of grandma’s pies. In the summer common people, used to come up-country in their wagons to buy bushels of great-grampa’s finest to take back to the little sleepy towns below that hugged the coast.

An epic of California history reflects off of Shirley tinted glasses as she gazes down into her ancestral past. A little girl, whose ancestors seven generations back traveled from Denmark and Norway to settle in California. She grew up and traveled the world with her husband who took her to far off places--Alaska, England, Australia. Distant lands that became home to this little country girl. At the mention of her husband, deceased 20 years now, she drops down into a bare whisper, her memory buried deep within her bosom--yet, not out of reach, always there, always a memory away, like the taste of molasses or cream. A new life was forged for her with the help of her Navy husband. Young people flying into an old world, making a life and having children--”a boy for you and a girl for me.” Time seems like such a blur.

She’s back to her roots now, three mile up the road where most of the old farms have been cast off to make room for new generations of commuters trying to escape the frantic rush and find peace in the serenity of the land. Here Shirley find her connection to her past. Once more apple trees grow on her five acres, this time for a grandchild to climb and pick and taste the raw-green of pre-harvest.

Shirley’s work shirt, one sleeve slightly rolled up, her Vibram soled boots with wool lining peeking out at the top, and her well-worn work pants reveal her connections to the earth. Within that quiet soul stirs her memories. She is ready now to write and reflect, to share her quiet observations with others. Years of travel and teaching and giving are ready for a harvest of their own. Now to perfect her craft and prepare the soil of her mind she studies--but not for long. Stories, eager for the telling, press against her memory like apple seeds against the soil, gestating and germinating to feed the children of yet-to-be-discovered futures.

February 13, 2000

© Gary Bacon 2000