Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Writer in Residence - Trial Run

To write about Wellspring Renewal Center, is to write about nature. The place sits just outside the hamlet of Philo, California, in Mendocino County; 50 acres of woods and meadows with the Navarro River running right through it. One long meadow, hemmed with small oaks and manzanitas along the north bank, parallels the river. Across it, redwoods spire to the sky, filling the horizon, topped only by trees of the hill commanding the horizon.  Hendy Woods State Park is adjacent to the property, across and to the west down the river; it feels like the redwoods go on forever. Which they did once, but no longer.

The buildings cluster on the northern, top edge of the gently sloping meadow which rolls down to the deep banks of the river. In recent summers, the river has slowed down to barely more than a large creek in spots, winding in a shallow trench across the rocky river bottom; this winter the channel is filled all the way across as an astounding volume of water barrels out to the ocean. Nevertheless, the river hasn't risen to the top of these banks in living or even recorded history. If it did - now that would be scary-or a different eon..

The meadow runs east to west the long way and thus is graced with sun the full day long. The cabin I like to claim has a generous porch facing south, overlooking the meadow, several majestic oaks, the scrim of trees and brush hiding the river and the redowwds across the way. The river, even as full as it is right now, sits so far below the tall banks it is invisible; only the noisy rush and tumble of the high water gives it away.

To write about Wellspring is to write about nature; it is to write about the birds first, for they truly abound. Acorn woodpeckers, clownish in their half-masks of yellow and black, flit about, working their way, knocka-knocka-knocka, around the tall wooden water tower and the oaks; they are everywhere with their a-whacka-whacka-whacka calls. Vultures wheel around the sky, blue, grey or blustery. The call of hawks and ravens echo off the redwoods; closer by I hear the brash squawks and burry chirrrs of the scrub and Stellar jays, the funny whistles of the northern flickers, the pips and peeps of towhees, juncos, phoebes, sparrows, chestnut-backed chickadees.

(psssst: don't take this Writer-in-Residence bit as official, it's not authorized in any way by the Wellspring Renewal Center. I just wanted a project. Anything to distract me from the dang-blasted novel.)

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Noise makers!