Up before dawn, we picked up Peet’s coffee and a bag of Noah’s bagels and hit the road. Exploring north for a photo project, following instinct and a hunch. Dense fog along the Sacramento River, farmlands and orchards. Winter’s chill giving way to sun in the afternoon. Knights Landing, Colusa, Robbins, Rumsey, Guinda—towns with quiet Sunday mornings.
Homesteader cemeteries—babies dead before they could walk, sons lost in the two world wars, wives gone in childbirth. A few headstones of those who lived long enough to witness horse-drawn wagons give way to Fords, to hold grandchildren on their knees and pass along a farmer’s hunch of what to expect come spring.
A sprawling farmhouse off a levee road, fallow fields to the north and hundreds of rose bushes carefully planted to the south. Nobody left to roll marbles across the warped wood floors. A foreclosure sign tacked to a Mediterranean blue front door. Orange trees lining the drive dropping fruit to rot and mold on the damp ground. The stories these walls must hold, lives begun and ended, hopes and dreams born and dashed.
Past walnut orchards, old bridges and fields. Geese honking through the fog, egrets perched on the levee’s edge. Putah creek, Cache Creek, Sacramento river, the base of Sutter Buttes, the ridges of the coastal range. Driving till dusk, our eyes full of this land of plenty.