Coast Road Trip: Cork Tree and Whale

We followed Dry Creek Road into the country northwest of Healdsburg to Lake Sonoma. Along the way, wineries, carefully cultivated vineyards, acre after acre of grapes. We stopped at the Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Dry Creek Valley, a snazzy estate with an “Italianate” villa with views of the valley and vineyards and with exuberant gardens, where we found a cork tree, this one some 50 years old, though they can age to 300 years, and one doesn’t want to start harvesting cork from their bark until they reach 50 years of age. The bark looked like cork, folds of it, and felt like cork, a hard sponge. The trunk was 4 or 5 feet wide.

I was reminded of the cork tree later when back in Depoe Bay, Oregon, we saw a whale, just off shore, bending in vertical dives, showing its back and sides, along the edge of the cliff just north of the harbor entrance. It was probably a gray whale. It was certainly alluring, and we watched for it a long time, and it came up every 10 minutes or so.

The smaller, less manicured wineries or vineyards, off hardpack dirt and gravel roads, with small wood buildings and just a few workers going about their chores – these we preferred to the larger, commercial estates.

Lake Sonoma is partially created with an earth dam over the valley, and we climbed up to the top of Rockpile Road and the bridge viewpoint where from a 3 story observation deck built with thick but old and now weathered timber, parts missing, we learned we were in feral pig country. Wine and pigs. What a life.

Sign posted above Sonoma Lake
Snazzy Ferrari-Carano Vineyards.
Cork tree.
Bark of cork tree.
Villa.

 

Pig Roast

In backyard rock lined pit dug underground for roasting of pig.

This yr pig day a hot one. The pig on a spit put into the pit by two strongest men, kneeling over the mouth, where a wood fire burning overnight has heated the rocks molten. The prepared pig at rest in the hot rocks, a sheet metal lid pulled over the hole. The pig cooks in the ground all this long hot day.

Waiting while pig cooks, drinking beer, young men throwing horse shoes, kids playing capture the flag in the closed street, salads prepped inside in the kitchen (where a ceiling fan famously spins), watermelon slices and water balloon toss in the front yard.

The pig pulls out early evening, after the old folks nap in the shade of the dusty eucalyptus.

The planet spins, spit pointed this pole toward the sun, one hot stone roasting a pretty blue pig, green apples popped in its mouth.

General agreement this yrs pig tastiest on record.

“This heat keeps up, soon be fixing swine in the shade of the sun,” Mr. Picbred says, mouth swill of pig, popping a fresh beer, sitting in front porch rocker, plate on lap, feet up, breathing from his belly, watching our sun go down.

global warming

Where Pigs Sing: “Pigsong,” by Frank Delaney

When I hear there’s a pig story in the offing, I think immediately of two of my favorite writers, P. G. Wodehouse, whose Lord Emsworth kept pigs, and E. B. White, whose Wilbur, of “Charlotte’s Web” fame, I can’t help but think of whenever I sit down to what another Wodehouse character, Bertie, of “Jeeves and the Bacon Fat Caper” fame, called the B and E, sometimes E and B, freely improvising on the jazz theme, but for our purposes here, sausage and eggs.

And yet, these singing pigs are not here sizzling in the pan, but if a pig really can sing, what has that to say about language? Perhaps many living and non-living things can talk, and we can hear them, animals and plants, acoustic and electric things, if only we try to listen. What is talk? What is language?

So it was with a bit of trepidation, resulting in only a tiny pig’s tail of technological frustration, that I delved into a bit of e-Pig fat and tasted a short story last night via Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader: tu-whit, “Pigsong,” by Frank Delaney.

There might be three kinds of people in our human world: masters, slaves, and those who escape entrapment of either of those two. But when we include animals, plants, rocks, and other things from our compost pile to the table of words, more interesting plots develop, and foil characters want out of their foils.

I have come to love compost. I love the sweet and awful smell of rotting food, decaying plants, moist loam and dirty, muddy soil, and I love to turn the compost pile over to discover mounds of lovely redish-purple worms at warm work eating their way through their Garden of Eden. Get a little closer and you can hear, hear the hum of the compost heap. I must have a bit of the pig in me. I think I can hear the pigs singing.

Frank Delaney, prolific Irish author, surely must lust for words as a pig honkers down to a late summer corn husk, must have some sort of language compost heap at his disposal.

What do pigs have in common with Ireland’s Saint Patrick? Well, for the answer to that, you’ll have to read the story: “Pigsong,” available at Amazon, (or, “Pigsong,” available at Barnes and Noble). Pigs are singing, waiting for listeners. It’s a story in which animals become human beings and tells of the origins of power, justice, and faith, and of independence, of cruelty and revolution to overthrow that cruelty. All this in a short story? Yes, well, it’s a fable, and so covers a lot of ground in a short space.

The source of stories that in turn explains the source of stories is a very old story, and continues to grow out of the compost heap made of words and fears and triumphs of songs and hate and love of cruel masters and creative workers in language that has been turned over and over by many a storyteller over the years. Frank Delaney is one of the best.

Related:

Frank Delaney: The Last Storyteller

Frank Delaney: Storytellers (about the series)

Magdalena Ball: Interview with Frank Delaney