A doleful awakening on a foggy Sunday morning, joints aching from the strain of lifting boxes of steel wires and forcing them into hard ground to hold Elect Jan Marx Mayor signs. Looking forward to meditation for escape from the nattering in my head, then impatient for it to be over. Not swimming enough because I wont use the Poly Rec Center in protest against that revolting expansion.
I wont let my alienation from the University–latest outrage disbanding the CSA- alienate me from Poly Land. I’ve been wondering about the red blanket of vegetation on Poly Mountain since June. Is it dried monkeyflower or buckwheat?
As soon as I slip into my West Coast Trail boots, my mood lightens and my legs urge me to get started, like the dog when he sees Jan lace her runners. I stride through the silent foggy streets, climb over the fence, and feel the spring of my footfalls through the grass. The sensation of freedom in the question, which way to go? Feet find a trail of cracked soil showing through trampled grass pointing straight uphill. Breathing muscles mobilized. The absence of the forty-pound pack makes the steepening ascent effortless, and the mixture of tarweed and horsemanure pleasures my nostrils. The trail continues beyond the fence. Two strands of barbed wire slack enough to allow me through. The sun is a faint disk penetrating the fog, recalling its appearance at Klanawa River.
Perhaps I’ll go to the tree house and sit there and write. I’ve done it before. The trail winds through the chapparal right to it. A new resident? Entering the secluded clearing under the great oak, I see a spade and a rake leaning against the twenty foot ladder that reaches the lowest branch. Ten feet above the tree house a large improvised hammock hangs atop another ladder. As I stare I hear a sleepy “hello?” Not wanting to trespass, I say “Hi, my name’s Steven. I come here every few months. Do you know E.C. the guy who built this house?” “Yes, met him once,” answers a voice whose origin seems to be a pile of blankets in the hammock. I ask if it’s OK to come up, and then mount the lower ladder. At the treehouse platform I see a mop of hair at the edge of the blankets above and try to build more trust. Yes they know M, they’re his students. I wrote in the guest ledger here on previous visits. I climb the next ladder into the bedroom. Two people snuggle under the blankets, K. and T. They work with the same environmental organization I do. I built a hammock like that forty years ago for kids on our farm in B.C.
After fifteen minutes chat I descend the ladders and continue up the mountain, serpentine boulders providing foot and handholds. The fog now just a ribbon draping Bishop Peak. The dark red scrub I’d been wondering about from the house and while approaching SLO on the freeway is neither monkeyflower nor buckwheat, but deerweed stalks, all the leaves and flowers gone. A huge exclusive patch, easy to walk through. Three years after the fire, it’s choked out all the poison oak.
The Cal Poly Crop Science Department’s decision to kill the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program may have been cruel and ill advised, but it did provide an effective display of raw power (“Harvest of disappointment,” Aug. 25). Its execution with blitzkrieg haste at a time of year when the university is deserted was well timed to maximize the shock and bewilderment of the many students, faculty, employees, and customers who held a stake in this real community institution.
One wonders if any of the decision- makers has ever shared my experience as a 10-year CSA member—being personally connected to the elemental process of planting, cultivating, harvesting, and cooking food grown by people they knew, in soil they loved. One wonders if these agriculturalists were aware of the decades of dedication invested in this program by visionary volunteers as a tiny offset to the servitude of most of the College of Agriculture to corporate industrial-chemical interests. One wonders if these crop scientists had considered the impact of being left in the lurch mid-season on several local small farmers who had partnered with the CSA.
One also wonders if their bumbling explanations, insulting to any person of intelligence, convinced their own authors or were just a smokescreen for a show of force. The only statement that made any sense in the letter sent to the press and to CSA members was that the program has been running a deficit. Apart from the fact that innovative, educational, and community service projects should not be judged simply by the bottom line of short-term profitability, a reasonable approach to the CSA’s financing problems would be for Cal Poly to activate some of its educational resources and opportunities—for instance in agricultural marketing and distribution—to help it thrive.