Monday, as I awoke to write this, I watched the moon disappear. It rose just an hour or so before the sun did, a waning moon, less than one quarter. It cleared a small band of clouds hovering over the Sierra before the sun’s light began to sear their bottoms, but as those rays increased, the moon’s beams got lost. I watched as the thin quarter shrank to a sliver and then evaporated in the pale blue sky above the brightening clouds. It was gone before the sun cleared Elephant Back’s spine.
I’ve inhabited this planet more than seven decades, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this common, predictable phenomenon before. It made me grateful to see this old eternal thing for the first time. I began to wonder what else in my life might be hidden by light.
We have entered the four weeks of the year’s longest days. Two weeks from the time of this writing will be the solstice, the longest day (and shortest night). Then the days will begin imperceptibly to shrink again. I know this mentally, and yet my body gets fooled every year into thinking the day length will continue to increase. It thinks we’re on some kind of ascending path, and by the time it catches up to the fact that the nights are lengthening, not the days, we are well into August.
Does a career follow this same trajectory? I don’t know. Last week a radio program called “Down on the Farm with Tom Willey” aired on KFCF fm 88.1, the alternative public radio station out of Fresno, now available at tdwilleyfarms.com/podcast-down-on-the-farm-with-tom-willey. In this month’s program I got to discuss the writing career of Gerald Haslam with Tom, an organic farmer all his adult life. I admire Tom and appreciate his career, not just for producing boxes of fresh vegetables for families all over Fresno and Madera counties, but also for becoming a spokesperson for the shift in farming we so desperately need to occur. The light from T & D Willey Farms might be overpowered by the supernova of California agribusiness, but it is there nonetheless. Tom is now retired from farming, but he is not yet retiring from the work of broadcasting the truths of it. It was an honor to sit at the table and talk with him through the headphones wired to the recording device, monitored by the sound engineer, our conversation sanctified somehow by its purpose.
And the purpose was to bring the light of another man’s career to the audience of that station. Unlike this paper, Fresno’s main news outlet has not carried one word of Gerry Haslam’s conclusion, apparently unaware of his contributions. So we held up some shards of Gerry’s writing for people to see and touch with their minds. We lovingly dusted off various aspects of his brilliance in portraying the characters we live among and unearthed the discoveries he made about this place while working on the land as a young man. We held up his singular, groundbreaking voice and his huge, encompassing heart. Essentially, we gave thanks.
The following night, on that same station, radio journalist (and former Sanger grape grower) Vic Bedoian rebroadcast a program he recorded at Fig Garden Bookstore in 1998: Gerry talking about writing and reading some of his work. That was followed by a recording Vic made of Mark Arax doing essentially the same thing a decade later. The contrast was startling at first: the plain-spoken, Oildale-tongued Haslam, modest in his claims versus the romantic, Armenian-whirled Arax moving like a dustdevil through the vineyards. But it was the same passion speaking through both men in different voices, the same light seeping through different clouds.
All four men are conveyors of truths born from our soil, compelled by love to commit their lives to our enlightenment. Our ability to see these truths waxes and wanes under blasts from the myth-making engine of our economy. When we learn that we’ve been blinded by that light, that we are not on an ever-ascending trajectory, and that what goes around comes around, these men’s truths will see us through.
Trudy Wischemann is a native daughter of Washington encamped on the banks of Rio California. You can send her your shards of love for this place c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.