I rode my motorcycle to Ventura today,
seeing Kern County more sharply,
through the eyes and words of a poet.
Sat up straighter in the saddle
so I could observe it all.
It’s not unusual to go about our busy lives, looking but not seeing. Objects that are a part of our landscape become all too familiar and fade into the background, become invisible. Wallpaper, pieces of decor, the front door, people’s faces, a route that we travel. It may be days or weeks before we notice changes.
What does it take to bring about awareness? For me, it was Bakersfield poet Don Thompson’s book-length narrative poem, Local Color, in which he shares his love of the southern San Joaquin Valley. Kern County in particular. Stories of real and imaginary people show up on the pages as he celebrates where we live and provides us with a greater sense of place.
With Don’s poem and his voice resounding in my head, I took off on Big Red for a ride to Ventura. At Wheeler Ridge, I looked for evidence of the poppies, but it’s late in the spring, and they are, as Don put it, “. . . scraped from the land now . . .”.
I noticed the changes at General Edward Beale’s Tejon Ranch. Once cattle land, the buzz and whirr of construction replace the gentle sounds of the herds. Coming Soon! an outlet mall!
Once over the Grapevine, in my mind’s eye, I could see Christo’s bright yellow umbrellas sprinkled on the hillsides.
Recognition clicked as I approached the road sign for Lebec, the little town over the Grapevine, named for local legend, Peter Lebeck. Though I’d passed this way hundreds of times, and wondered about what ‘Lebec’ represented (on the days I was paying attention), Don’s poem brought it to life.
We talk about being ‘in the moment.’ Sometimes it takes a new awareness or a poetic reminder pushing us to see the world before us, compelling us to view it afresh. Proust was correct, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
~ xoA ~