As a writer, one of my most primitive fears is that the well will dry up, that the cistern is indeed broken and there is nothing left. 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 am 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. It was 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 Daly City.
One morning, I was walking on Hoen Avenue. I don’t know if I was walking home from St. Eugene’s or Sambo’s. It was fall, it had rained that morning or the night before, the quiet road was damp and sprinkled with acorns. The leaves were wet and odiferous. This memory I cherish because I believe this moment is the moment I fell in love with autumn. I clearly remember the crunching of the leaves and gravel under my shoes, the cool air being kept out by my warm jacket, the smell of the wet earth and crushed leaves. The memory is short, just a moment captured in my mind, but this moment has followed me for over 40 years, igniting the passion every year for this glorious season.
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 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. (By the way, this is why I keep all of my kids’ writings.) That same year, I wrote a book, illustrated and bound it myself.
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 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.