Friday, April 06, 2012

Day 6: Your obvious homage to your grandmother

Since my project thus far has been to write about the Gravenstein apple and the history of Sebastopol, I found today's daily writing prompt hard.  My grandmother never lived in Sebastopol and her only connection to Sebastopol is through myself and my parents.  But, my Grandmother has an interesting past.  She came to California from Oklahoma as a young girl in the dust bowl (she always told me she didn't think Steinbeck got it right when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath).  She was always eager to retell things the way they really were.  When she ended up in California she worked long hours at a peach cannery in Atwater.  During the 1920s many women worked long hours in food production plants.  And it was this thought brought me back to Sebastopol.  (There is always a road back, isn't there?)  After the apple industry took off, there were 100,000s of delicate apples to pack and ship across the United States.  It was women (like my grandmother) who worked long hours in these packing house jobs.  Here is my (not so obvious) homage to my grandmother's work and a little story she told me about reciting poems to stave off the boredom of such repetitive work.

Tending the Gold Ridge, 1920
Each day a new field was plowed and planted.
Each season production would swell.  Each fruit
handpicked into wooden crates, delivered
by wagon or truck to the packinghouse.
Then, the small, red-striped globes were placed
into shipping crates.  How tiring to
stand ten hours a day sorting good from bad.
It was women’s work.  Closed-doored, but
checkered with sunlight brought from high windows.
A dull, quiet work that could open or
close that quiet wilderness of mind.

Decades later, when their bodies had grown
old, when their minds strobbed memories—
that wilderness (however conquered) would
return.  In a few lines by Tennyson
about an old king who traveled far and
couldn’t return home:
but every hour is saved.
How those words illuminate the musty smell
of the packing house, the ache of feet,
but also the ballet of young hands, the hum
of low voices staving off silence with
by repeating the few poems they knew by heart

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