Friday, January 28, 2011

First of the shorts

Nathan here with a few words...

We were living on the coast in this little blue rental on a small ledge of stone and sand overlooking the ocean just South of Waldport. We had 3 walls of sliding glass doors in the house that would flex and pop during storms. All the glass made you feel like you were forever outside in those elements, the sheets of rain, being pushed onto the glass in thick layers by the wind.

In the Northeast corner of this little house, just off the entry way was a small room that we had made into an office. There, on a corner desk, the first of the stories were written. It was a good place for that kind of work, on a ledge, next to the ocean, in that house that sometimes felt more like a glass boat than a house, but just enough glass to hold back the storms, and just enough ledge to hold onto.

The first stories are novice and folksy. They were at the same time an escape back to a peaceful valley during an impossible time for both of us, and an attempt to understand and define this love of ours, the farm. The very first story was called Dirt, our humble takeoff on the notion of Terroir. The person named in this story, Dorothy Harris, was the one that made it possible for my family to live in Harris Valley. In 1976, she sold the original Harris family farmhouse to my parents, and my dad Troy took on the work of restoring it. Similar to the coast house, this structure sits on a ledge, just above the Mary's river. It overlooks a collection of small waterfalls, and in the winter those falls become a raging torrent, and in the winter of 1978 that ledge was also just enough to hold onto.

There were about 200 printings of this story on the bottles that left the winery. As I write this, and look back through the previous versions of this story before it was printed, and as I think about Dorothy, and Troy, I'm inclined to include one of the earlier versions of the story and toast that never made it to print. You will see it below.


In the early spring of 1998 I began to prep the field for planting grape-vines. Dorothy Harris of Harris Valley, Harris Bridge, and Harris Road had let me use her old, rusted out, single blade, scrap-metal plow to turn the soil. I remember that I spent all evening wrestling it out of the shed because it was buried 6 inches in 50 years of dust, and entangled with 5 other implements from the turn of the century.

The plow's first cut into the soil was my baptism into the church of the romantically inclined small time farmer. I had turned over a century of seasons to reveal the soil of another time. It was musty, organic, dark, rich, soft, moist, and virgin. Its composition was all the life and matter of the past centuries, fallen, and laid to rest, waiting to be consumed again in another form.

A toast to dirt,
Life's reflection pool

Friday, January 7, 2011


Once upon a time was a big dark eye. It came in a big dark package that was soft and smelled a little dirty, a lot like river, a hint of corn-chips.

Once upon a time was a restaurant where the people went on the side of a concrete hill.

Once upon a time before this big dark eye in its big dark package was a girl who went to the restaurant on the hill where the corn chips came in warm little bowls and the windows were wide and the street was busy. This was a city.

Once upon a time the big dark eye in its package of darkness and softness and smells took a walk on a hillside in the country. There were railroad tracks and trees and lots and lots of fungus.

Fungus can snuggle and can stand like soldiers, or like figures tending paddies, or those admiring mountains.

Once upon a time the fungus threw a party. The party was a big one, a good one, with many invitations. To the little groves, to the glens, the dales, the nooks, to the crannies, the stumps, the beds of ferns. The cheeks of trunks. Come! Come! Celebrate! On this day at this time in this place you can’t miss us - we’ll be the ones all over the place!

Once upon a time while this party was being planned and the fungus were dressing in their best suits and some were saying I want to go and some were saying I don’t know how we’ll make it and still others were saying I don’t care what you think about this orange, I think I look pretty neat and my curves feel great and more than anything else I’m happy and glow and I’ll knock the socks off this party – as all this was hubbubing along, there was a checkerboard of old fire broke wood resting in red dirt. It remembered its days as a trim little tree when nothing could stop it from growing as tall as any other tree it had seen, taller even, right off the head of the hill and straight through the elements. Oh! Rain up high was colder, and sun that much whiter. The birds nested, and voles burrowed, and worms braided through roots. Sometimes a cat passed by or hid and more than one buck rode out its rut in the area, velvet pressed to bark and scrapes hoofed in the tree's slender trunk that turned brisk with exposure.

Once upon a time the big dark eye trotted past the checkerboard wood. It stopped and put an iris in the light. Down in a swale stood a broad glowing oak, its body green fur, branch tips webbed pale. Perhaps it was old enough its marbles or galls or whatever a tree might lose in old age were indeed being lost. Or perhaps trees grow only wiser. Perhaps what is wise is not always that which is widely believed to be so. Perhaps this and that and the other thing, and that thing over there, too.

Behind the oak and below the big dark eye that still stood with its iris lit grew a small tree, limber in the wind with a dish or nest or crown or catch for its top, all its highest needles curling as many many ears. Receptors. Receivers. Transmission. Cilia. It listened to the checkerboard wood remembering and the duct of the dark eye contracting and the fungus all readying. Goodness! The fungus! So many and they just kept arriving, kept popping up like joy or a keen fox or a salamander in the ditch at the water's face for breath. They were all shapes and sizes and outfits and the little tree knew the big dark eye could see it, and the checkerboard wood could feel it, and so could the oak, and so could it, the listening little pine, and so could all the others whose outsides were perked up in welcome:

You're here!

Turn it up!

Your gills are gorgeous.

May I have this dance.