Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Day 4: The cottonwood I lived in as a child was a comfort when I found out I couldn't fly

Fort Ross was the first white settlement on the Sonoma Coast and it is celebrating it's 200th aniversary this year.  It's also where many (including Luther Burbank) found the oldest specimen of the Gravenstein Apple tree.  In the early 1900s, they discovered a tree there that they suspected was over 100 years old.  I've been haunted by this fact, and the state Fort Ross would have been in when they visited Fort Ross to find the tree.  The Russian settlers were by then long gone (they left in 1849) and the buildings must have been run down.  The fort has been set aside as state land, but little had been done to preserve it at that time. It was just a bunch of rundown buildings stuck in a huge cattle ranch right on the Sonoma Coast.  There was one old house where (I believe) the cattle rancher and his family lived.  Today's poem which is written off the prompt: The cottonwood I lived in as a child was a comfort when I found out I couldn't fly.  As you might have guessed, I switched the tree to apple.  Here is my attempt at a draft.
Upon Finding the First Gravenstein Apple Tree
--Fort Ross, CA, 1912
By the time the two horticulturalists
Griffith and Burbank discovered the tree
it had been bearing fruit one-hundred years.
These days, few lived at the decrepit fort.
Only the cattle farmer, his family,
and the Pomo servants who cleaned and cooked.

It was a willowy boy who emerged
from the white clapboard house on the steep cliff,
who led them reverently down the thin worn
path to the tree.  A few red, shriveled globes
still clung to its bare branches.  Immediately,
the men were sure it was the specimen
they had been looking for and went to work.
They began picking the shriveled globes, and breaking
off cuttings to bring back to Burbank’s farm. 
Without words the boy flung himself into
the tree’s wide crotch then shimmied his body
out to the edge where he could see the cold
deep waters that frothed the bay below. 
He became so much a part of the tree
the men, busy in their work, mindful of the long journey back
to town forgot he was there.  When he said,
“This is the tree where I learned to fly” His
breath folded, effortlessly into the
rough wind that flapped their canvas pants like sails.
Late breaking addition (thanks to Mari L'Esperance who graciuosly sent me the picture and made my day).  Here is an actual photo of a gravenstein apple tree at Fort Ross (the photo was taken in 2008).

No comments: