Nostalgia: a longing for place

by Vivian Hadleigh on November 19, 2012

News! David Holper, author of the second poem below, just announced the publication of his newest book, Ghosts of Silence. It’s available in e-book form on Amazon. Just click on the link!

The poems below were written by two of my personal favorites among the many poets living and creating in Humboldt County, California (See? there ARE other exports!). I still get goosebumps and a swell of longing when I read the tattered remnants that I clipped from the North Coast Journal, and which I keep on my refrigerator door.

I lived in Humboldt County for fifteen years and never regretted a single second of that time. I adored the giant redwood trees, the nearby stretches of nearly empty beaches, and the abundant wildlife.

If I timed it right, I could visit with a family of river otters and their pups. Deer, bears and mountain lions visited often; red-tail hawks and osprey, ravens and crows, made their racket outside my windows all the time. Black-headed Steller’s jays chimed in often with decent knockoffs of the other birds’ cries, to clear out competition for food. Great horned owls, screech owls and – once – an endangered spotted owl added to the chorus in their seasons.

But just as wonderful was the eclectic, divergent, hippie-conservative-artistic-layabout-logging-sporting, in-your-face, and never-endingly creative and original culture.

You’ll see. Here are the poems:

The Cows of Humboldt County
are gently nibbling the tasty greens of their fields.
They lower their large heads to give earth’s growth
a series of love-bites. Then they lie down
to ruminate on things, considering the
after-taste of grass like a wine connoisseur,
finding highlights to savor, undertones to detect,
subtleties that soil and sun have commingled.

When night falls, they become still,
listening to a distant barking dog,
oddly unmoved by the changed voice of their
ancient predator. As with all enemies,
time has made them neighborly.

– John J. Brugaletta (author of  The Tongue Angles, Tilling the Land, a chapbook, and Apologias and published in the Random House Book of Light Verse, the North Coast Journal, and numerous other periodicals. You can hear him on the Mad River Anthology web site.)

The Six Things a River Might Say, if It Were to Speak

There is no such thing as a river
the word you call me is simply a place where waters pass.
I am no more a thing unto itself than is ocean, air, you.
When a swallow dips its beak for a drink,
The sky bends down to kiss my surface
and this moment is reflected, like a tale told twice in joy, wrinkling the cloud’s face.
All rivers are not metaphors, nor similies;
forget what you have heard: I am life — and what living thing
doesn’t become something new as it empties into the ocean to weep salt?
If not fate, or some magnanimous hand,
what made the waters that you bend down to touch?
Did the waters make themselves? Did the salmon return to their ancestral beds by accident?
All words about rivers ultimately fail us:
listen to the sounds of the water passing over the rocky bottom in the rills;
isn’t that the word that spoke us all into being?
In the end, you come to me for the same reason the salmon do:
God tips you back into yourself when you seek Him.
Anyone who leans too far out over the water to see himself must finally fall through into the depths for an answer.

– David Holper, from his book 64 Questions. He just published Ghosts of Silence, and has another book in the works.

A word of advice: If you feel inspired to move to Humboldt County, take the natives’ doom and gloom stories about living conditions with a grain of salt. They really don’t want people to move there … might mess with the pristine environment and quirky culture! And I have to say I don’t blame them.

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