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29 September 2020

Eugenio Montale observed enigmatically in a poem called Piccolo Testamento, "ma una storia non dura che nella cenere/e persistenza è solo l'estinzione." But a story lasts only in ashes, he wrote, and persistence is only extinction.

Persistence. Nikon D200 with 50mm f1.4 Nikkor at f5.6, 1/180 second, ISO 200 and circular polarizer. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

Which we take to mean, you don't have a story until it ends and persisting is only working on the ending.

We were thinking of that yesterday morning when the sky again took on a glow too golden for the morning from the ash of new fires blowing in from the north. Overnight the retirement community of Oakmont in Sonoma had been evacuated with city buses from Santa Rosa ferrying the aged and infirm (and lively but sleepy) to safety away from their threatened homes.

It's a place we know well.

Gram lived her last years in Oakmont and we would drive up often to see her. And later, when she had passed away, we would spend weekends there in the wine country, escaping our jobs and the frenetic city. We'd have a Viansa-supplied lunch in Gram's garden and dinner at the taqueria down the road.

The ending still had to be written.

It was then a lovely place. And remains one.

And the people we met there were lovely too, well honed by life. They are all long gone by now. We were a bit too young to buy in when the new owners evicted us from our home of 28 years to moved in themselves. But we've never forgotten the people we met up there. They are still alive in our minds. Extinction being only persistence in their case.

It was untenable for our parents to hang onto a second home so they sold it. At just the right time. It was being remodeled just as a new development with fancier homes sprouted up in what had been an orchard all the time we were there. The old man who had refused to sell his orchard had himself finally fallen from the tree.

We were remembering Oakmont and the people we had befriended there in that too golden morning light yesterday morning. It reminded us of them.

Later in the afternoon, the golden light lit this bush from the side and we had to photograph it. It was a tricky shot (this is quite a crop) but it said what we had been feeling about the whole thing all day. The fire, the place, old friends.


The bush itself fell over to the right some time ago. Under its own weight, we suspected. We were, at the time, tempted to pull it up and toss it in the compost bin.

But we didn't.

It wasn't dead. And we couldn't, for the life of us, figure out what was going on. So we left it to sort things out for itself. The ending still had to be written.

You can see what happened. It kept growing. From the stalks that had fallen parallel to the ground, it bent upwards to the light and grew new leaves.

We snapped the shutter. That's enough of a lesson for one day, we thought.

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