Thursday, July 22, 2010

New and improved

On my walk this morning I clomped through productive vineyards.  Trimmed and tucked into an elaborate wire and post structure the grape vines are tightly controlled, fertilized, watered, sprayed, monitored.  They must conform to what is given to them so as to be able to yield their fruit to the mechanized picker when harvest commences in late summer.

I walked up and over the levy, which keeps the river at bay, out of the vineyards.  I walked through a thick patch of Star Thistle, an invasive thistle from somewhere far far away.  I didn't really walk through it, I am not tough enough to do so, I stayed on the path made by 4-wheelers.  The thistle is nasty, with hard, very sharp stickers surrounding its beautiful yellow flower.  The Goldfinches love this horrible plant, and they were there, filling the air with birdsong and flashes of more yellow.  Before reaching the open space beyond willow and thistles an unbelievable stench greeted me.  "Oh God!"  There, dumped and left, was a large gray plastic bin with what looked like manure spilling from it, but really, was unidentifiable without going closer, and I was not about to do that.  Nearby the bin was a black plastic garbage bag, with a red twisty keeping it closed.  Some one had cleaned up something.  Right.

My walking took me across a stretch of gravel bar to the edge of the river.  There I discovered two fairly nice office chairs facing a fire-circle made from cinder blocks, a stack of wood, one river shoe and one dog turd from a fairly large dog (not mine).

While I stood there listening to the riffling of the rapids, an osprey surprised by my presence, veered into a wild left-turn and up-leveled to a higher path over my head.  Upriver it cried its Osprey "Scree!"

Meeting the family from China has been very sobering.  Lin Yuhe is young and fresh like the 9 1/2 year olds of my experience.  I found myself, in re-reading my blog post from yesterday, feeling like the words were empty, idealistic-in-a-nutso-way, even ridiculous.  Looking at the pictures of the innocent children is unnerving.  The evening was full of contrast.  At the dinner table were amazing people.  On my left a scientist who lives and works in Davis, CA.  His wife, a lawyer, was born and raised in China, the daughter of a physician in a small village.  The scientist works with genetically altering plants and fascinated me with his passion for moving genes from the weeds to lettuce, so the crops will be hardier, won't be susceptible to mildew.  He was patient with my questions, and reassured me that all is well, the lettuce will reach more people in better shape, and to not worry about the nutritional composition, since the genes have nothing to do with that.  On my right was my son in law, a vineyard manager/firefighter, and just beyond him was the dinner host, a winemaker at a large, corporation winery.  The American (USA) men talked of their passion for guns and hunting the feral pigs which are ripping up wilderness and vineyard and multiplying.

It was pointed out that in China there is nothing to shoot.  The human population do not have guns, and the wildlife is 99% extinct.  The Chinese are not allowed to drive all over the place.  Villages do not exist as they did even a few years ago.  They've been razed.  The population is in a dramatic flux, moving to cities, into high-rise apartment buildings which are rising nearly overnight.  Tourists to China eat a variety of foods while the population eats 95% rice.  The children eat at school, the parents at "work."  Tourists are allowed/taken/guided to various approved places.  The average Chinese person is not allowed access to these places.

The "idea" of all of this piled up, is still affecting my life.  None is "bad," I am just blown away by the vast difference of cultures.  And I find myself worrying about Lin Yuhe.  By the standards of her culture she is very protected.  What will she do with all of these (and more) contrasts?  Will she be allowed to keep and wear her Cowgirl outfit?  Her Mama said that she's shy and doesn't come out of herself at school or on the bus ride home, until she's safe and secure in their apartment, where she is a talkative, vivacious, full of giggles kid.

I'm isolated.  I live and move in tight little circles.  I raised my children in this place of indulgence, excess, an unparalleled lie really.  I do not have the $$$ to visit this place!  I work IN it, not unlike the Chinese workers.  My kids have all grown into workers.  We are part of the web of working people who create places like N. California where the morbidly rich come to wine and dine.

I'm guessing it all works.  Obviously.

I am one who has always looked to betterment: I work for "It," I long for it, I push towards it.  I want to improve my diet, my mind, my environment, the global environment.  I want to improve my neighbor, too, and I want them to improve: for the good of all the animals, and the mountains and the rivers.  I want to improve my vocabulary and how my dog behaves.  I want my cats to improve, the tomatoes and cucumbers to be better.  I want the rivers to run cleaner and cars to be cheaper.  I want to drive a 427 Shelby Cobra, just once rip it up lay rubber on some long, straight stretch of asphalt.  I want my children to be happy and healthy and to work on their own improvements, thus carrying on more and better improvement...

and so, with an eye on the clock, I am going to leave you to your own improvements.

See where this has taken me?  What is with all the improving?  What, really, is improved?  I do not live in a cave, but sometimes I kind of appreciate that possibility.  Saturday I was riding in the cab of the tow truck, whizzing along above the pavement rushing below me.  My discomfort made me acutely aware of how I like to have the engine in front of me, not sit on top of it.  The driver of this truck was a young man, a nice young man.  He was very skillful with the whole towing gig.  As he maneuvered the truck, with my precious, bright red SUV on the bed, through the on and off ramps of the freeway, he simultaneously fielded and sent texts on his (smart!)phone.


Sorry.  I couldn't dream up a photo to go with this post.
I do love you.  Loving you saves me.


Anonymous said...

Much to think about. Thank you. Is it all movie we're watching with our eyes shut? Did you ever think you would live to see the end of the world as we know it? The "It" is definitely worth looking for...

Ms. Moon said...

I feel like I could have written this myself. I am constantly tortured by the thought of my own vast wealth compared to the rest of the world and I don't mean just the "stuff" and money and food. I mean the ability to be able to wish for better way beyond just more to eat.
I read "Lost on Planet China" last year by J. Maarten Troost and lost whatever small interest I ever had in going there. It sounds so dystopic.
Well. This was a good one, filled with images and thoughts. Thanks.

Friko said...

Is there much point in torturing yourself because you are better of than people in huge tracts of the world?
You/I/We cannot change anything, we can only do the best for ourselves and those who need us to look after them.
If you like, that could be called 'improvement'.

I read both your posts about the visit of the Chinese pen pal; the children enjoyed themselves, as did the adults. That must be enough for now. Everything else life and fate will take care of for all of us.

Annie said...

The is something so sad about this entire post. Lin Yube and her world is the saddest part. Heartbreaking that a child can not be a child except in private or perhaps in a land far, far away.

I think we all hope for joy to fall everywhere and wish it for all but alas, that isn't how the world is. Thank God you have the freedom to move, breath, act, say, do, worship, as you. There is no doubt that our society, our world is more complicated but the complexity makes for such an interesting and varied of mixtured.

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