One morning I go out at dawn to walk the orchards.

Is this a good place? Is it safe? What life will present itself?

I walk among trees laden with apples. The coastal mist dampens my skin. I imagine Hopi plants and how they would drink this moisture up. Gopher holes riddle the loamy ash colored soil. A civilization of them. I find old walnut shells. And ancient gnarled California oaks bend exquisitely toward the ground. An oyster shell pokes up from the dirt. There’s evidence of artesian springs.

A flock of wild turkeys waddle toward the vineyard. Everywhere I find turkey feathers. And jay feathers.  And the horn of a deer. Quail dart among the trees. I see large cat prints. Rabbit pellets. Fox scat. Chickens wander in the distance. The grapes just now are coming onto the vine. A line of does steps up from the hollow. Later I learn that a mountain lion was spied coming up the Blucher creek. I see a few corn stalks volunteering among the Gravenstein apple trees.

I hear the sweet call of the crows. And then, at last, the rasp of the ravens in the fog. Two sentinel redwoods tower above one of the old farmhouses.

These are the beings that govern this place. The LaDukes. Me. My family. We’re all interlopers. We need the help of the others if we’re going to live here. And likewise we have an obligation to all of them. If nothing else, simply to let them live.