Letter From California
04/08/08 0604.33 pst
San Jose, California
Sometime in the last winter during the long, cold hours before dawn I realized that the cooing of doves was absent from the lot. One of the many things I like about rising well before dawn is the peace and quiet—my little palace is quite close to an amazing daily rush of automobiles, so I often spend hours in front of the house before dawn, relishing the still whispers of everything, watching the stars and the gardens. Around 0345 it’s as quiet as suburbia ever gets, soon to be followed by this gentle, low, whooo-whooo coo of doves, as if the world were being softly awakened for the busy day ahead.
Too many of which were spent watching horrified as one of the cats bounded into the house with a freshly dead bloodied dove in its mouth, feathers settling slowly as the mangled corpse was ruthlessly tossed about in a game of look what I’ve got! The doves are here for the food I put out for them, of course, and even though it’s in a 100% safe place and my precious felines are woeful—if earnest, hunters—once in a while, if a cat stays perfectly still, the poor bird just walks right into range for that big toss up into dove heaven. After a while it was simply too much and the bird feeding stopped.
But sometime in January I began to miss the doves and their coo of calmness, I’m not really sure why, but I did so much I went back out and bought bird food again. Just four weeks later two dove families are back, eagerly fattening up for Spring and a new generation, waiting for the dawn every morning with me. They don’t like to feed before dawn, just perch around and coo, yes it does the soul good to hang out with them. Oy, I suppose a messy mortality experience is waiting for me because of it, but I’ll deal with it when it happens.
Early Spring has been dry and cold, good sunshine bringing all the rose canes to life yet not warming up the soils, so around 700 rose buds are poised in the front this very moment, big at the end of long stems or clustered on climbers, just waiting for a day to reach seventy degrees and unfurl a glory of blooms found only a few places in this vast city. Soon, very soon that will actually happen and I can stand guard before dawn, rose scents and dove coos wafting subtly over it all.
Many more will see the blooms this year, for my little street of “starter cottages” worth half a million dollars (cough) has become a tiny thoroughfare of foreclosure, six houses are now empty or very soon to be, families waiting to move on somewhere. Every weekend real estate agents set up their signs of futility while many families check out the street and prices, bored kids blankly staring out the windows of family cars in a classic expression of youth, parents gesturing to general surroundings. Perhaps one day someone will actually buy a house, but for now the would-be buyers and bank agents just endlessly cruise the streets like patient ravens riding on thermals, knowing the feast will be so much easier with just a little more patience.
Such is the stance of Schwarzenegger and California Republicans, waiting like vultures around the body of California they’ve tried to hurl to the ground, actually possessing the gall to stand before us and state that 28 parks and the future of our children are simply so much waste to be chucked into the trash bin. So far Don Perata and California Democrats, to my immense gratification, have made true leadership stances against this insanity, so we shall see what happens.
Still, no one expects complete victory, along with the recession California is going to have to deal with cuts in services and raised taxes. All the adults in the state already know it, but many Republicans have been elected here, so reality is going to take a long, long time to be accepted. Usually the GOP gets away with their endless rantings of unreality about taxes, endlessly putting off problems for the future, but the situation is so dire this time there really is no alternative but to grow up. It will be very painful for our Republican brethren, yes, but at least interesting to watch.
A Spring of foreclosure, recession and taxes, yes, but the streets outside the window have already roared to life, tens of thousands on their way to work and school. No matter what happens Californians always show up, we’ve been through tough times before, sunshine, flowers, crops and the sea sustaining us through it all. We’ll never give up on this place, we were born here, belong here, and eagerly look forward to Spring and Summer, as always. Too much is good and right in California to behave otherwise.