The Willamette Valley - Photo by Don Hankins (cropped)
This poem tells what happened to me. In the flat land at the south end of San Francisco Bay where I lived before my two years in Bangladesh there is a continuous urban area broken in governance by the original cities. Of them all, San Jose is basically the southeast pivot and the Bay Area cities proceed in their layout in a northing direction from there. (Northing is a surveying term of obvious meaning - here, as an example, a northing line.)
The east end of San Jose includes what we would call the east hills. They are high enough and San Jose had back in those days so few truly tall buildings that the hills were always on the eastern horizon and so could be used as directional locators pretty much no matter where you were. And in those days there were few buildings up there, the country being very dry and cleared of most wildlife, privately owned land.
In winter and spring the rains are present, and so these hills would display living grasslands. In summer and fall rain is rare. The grasslands would dry up and turn yellow. Living in San Jose, I would see the dead looking hills from everywhere and they weighed on my heart. In the transition from the green of spring to the yellow of summer I would grieve the seasonal death of the color green.
I returned from Bangladesh to San Jose in 1069. That seasonal sadness was a big part of the impulse that brought me to Oregon in the summer of 1973. I chose to stay with my friend Ann and eventually marry her because we went to Oregon. I knew the Willamette Valley stayed mostly green all year long without man's insistence and would have been largely forest had man left it alone. This because there is so much more rain in this land. For me, the rain has always been totally worth it.
I have claimed green as my favorite color my whole life.
Following The Call
Whenever I'm asked
how I came to this valley
I say the east hills
called to me from hot
summer, called from spring,
from green grassy spring,
and said, go find rain.
March 6, 2011 12:50 PM