Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Delta

We went out to the Delta yesterday most of the day which was a good trip. It is the area where the Sacramento River and the Bay waters meet. Ray's daughter was here so we left them together and drove out to the west coast Staten Island looking for birds. There were supposed to be Tundra Swans but we didn't see any. Lots of Great Blue Herons and egrets which are familiar to me from Hyampom. Stopped in Locke which is a funky old town built by the Chinese who built the levees that keep the waters back and allow the area to be farmed. There are still Chinese living there but we stopped in at The Wops, a bar/restaurant John Ann used to hang out in in days of yore. Dollar bills decorated the ceiling, motorcyclists decorated the benches on the porch, pictures of Al,The Wop, decorated the walls. American of another age. The towns dilapidated main street was lined with aged wooden buildings in disrepair and had artwork for sale, pottery, antiques and objects from other eras in the dusty windows. It was closed until we emerged from The Wops and suddenly at 11am everyone was opening up shop.

We went on to Guisi's for lunch where baseball caps decorated the ceiling and you get free wine with your burger and fries. It was right on the water and houseboats were tied up outside. John Ann pumped the couple sitting across from us about life on houseboats, cost of same, monthly charges, and we both fantasies a life floating on the delta in our cool houseboat with solar power. We would float higher and higher as the ice caps melt and the water rises, safe and snug, meeting cool people, tying up at funky restaurants, ceilings covered with strange objects, drinking wine and chatting. Pirates--yes, why, not? There might be pirates as anarchy increases--if we were younger that might be really intriguing, but now, older and wiser, we opt for a Huck Finn life on water, a life of ease, fishing and minor theivery--that is risque enough for us.

John Ann knows the bartender, Mark Two, apparently there was a Mark One, and he tells us where we might find her long time friend and off we go to the farm they manage for the Nature Conservancy who is responsible for flooding the fields every winter after harvest so the water birds can stop on their migrant way.

John Ann's friend used to come to Hyampom with her and they rode motorcycles in their short shorts, smooth brown legs looking very inviting and contrasting nicely with all the heavy metal. Wild free women--I used to get a pang on seeing them go by, feeling suddenly saddled with baby and husband, garden and lifestyle of subsistence farmer. Sally taught school in the Delta and managed the land with her husband, and built a house, where she was moving even as we arrived. Her six horses were in a nearby pasture. Well there was one mule and we went out to see them. Why don't we ride, I gushed a little high on the lunch wine. John Ann said NO! bringing me to my senses. We would be exhausted by the time we got them saddled and sore for a week afterward, if we didn't fall off and smash ourselves senseless. The horses came over to see if the treats we were pretending we had were real. We rubbed their soft noses and patted their necks, loving them. Sally arrived standing up as she drove her 3-wheeler, her dog sitting beside her, her hair blowing behind her. The dog immediately started rounding up the horses. John Ann and Sally visit. It has been while since they have seen each other but John Ann knows that Sally's husband is dying of kidney cancer. John Ann tells her that her husband is getting treatment for terminal cancer of the lung. He has six months at most. While I pet horses, they discuss the treatments and the grief. Tears spill over Sally's face and JA's eyes cloud with tears. "NOw that we've retired and have built this place, my partner's leaving me" Sally says. "We wanted to share this place together. What is the point of it now?" John Ann understands. "It doesn't make any sense!" These old friends stand in the shadow of death and mourning, touching each other with love. Sally says, "Well, maybe we'll ride together again." They both smile. We go back to the house riding on the vehicle, Sally standing up, the dog and JA sitting while I hold on to all three, only one hip on the seat and totally off balance.

The ride back to town was slower and more comfortable. I dozed in between mumblings and musings about times past and to come. A good day full of sunshine and water, love and tears.

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