As a writer, my deepest fear is that the well of ideas will dry up, that the cistern is indeed broken and there is nothing left to share or write about. I don’t think I am alone with that fear; I think many artists feel that way. Before I freeze up and abandon all writing projects because I think I’m a fraud, I go to my treasure chest of ideas, my childhood memories. There are so many real and imagined memories from growing up, that almost each one in itself is a seed for a column. It is my savings account, if you will.
In the ‘60s, my family lived in Santa Rosa for an idyllic five years. We lived on a short street next to the school where passions for poetry, music and geography were born. All the neighborhood kids played together, and I was devastated when we had to move. Apple orchards, sardines in a can and block parties did not accompany us to the City.
One morning, I was walking on Hoen Avenue. I don’t know if I was walking home from St. Eugene’s or to Sambo’s. It was fall, it had sprinkled that morning or the night before, and the quiet road was still damp and peppered with acorns. This memory I cherish because I believe this is the moment I fell in love with autumn. I clearly remember the crunching of the dry leaves which had been umbrelled by the large trees and the crackling of the gravel under my shoes, the cool air was kept out by my warm jacket. The smell of the wet earth and crushed leaves accentuated this brief memory. For 50 years, this ancient memory continues to ignite this glorious season each September.
I echo George Eliot’s praise, “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
The fact that autumn coincides with a return to school only compounds my joy. I loved school growing up, and to go back with this season right around the corner only heightens both experiences. I remember one fall, I think I was in 3rd grade, and I had to write a story for class. I wrote a five page story about Frankenstein, the Wolfman and Dracula. I was so proud of this writing; I wish I had kept it.
Perhaps my best fall memory was when I was living in Half Moon Bay in the ‘70s. I was working for a realtor during the 18% interest rate times, and business was subsequently slow, so slow that I was dying with boredom. Luckily, he let me read….sweet. I read the entire trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, some of the Bible and old favorites from high school.
This time of my life was filled with floral skirts, clogs and Neil Young songs. The Pumpkin Festival was coming, and pumpkins and produce were everywhere. The landscape was punctuated with orange in freshly tilled fields, and stocks of corn husks and scarecrows dotted the porches of all the businesses. Slices of pumpkin pie were had at the bakery by Cunha’s Market, and daily I was in heaven with an Original Johnny’s cheeseburger. I lived there for one season, but it was one of the most magical seasons of my life. Half Moon Bay is beautiful in the fall.
Even this fall morning, when I opened the door, the off-shore wind boldly and warmly greeted me. Dancing leaves swirled around me like giddy children and wafts of jasmine intoxicated me. It’s going to be a nice day.