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Creek Running North

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August 10, 2003


There's construction across the street: an ugly insurance building adding an ugly two-story extension. The design includes a few concrete pillars; here in seismic California, concrete construction more extensive than a driveway pad requires reinforcement. To pour the pillars, the contractors put delicate helices of quarter-inch rebar, tied to thick one inch rebar supports, inside heavy cardboard cylinders. The cylinders are lifted into place and concrete poured into them. Once the concrete sets, the paper is peeled away from the new column. You can still see the helical tracing of the paper on the finished columns.

Behind the construction site, long scrap pieces of reinforced rust-colored helix lay for several weeks. I drove by, eyeing them, a few times a day. Yesterday morning, with an OK from the contractor, I hauled a ten-foot helix across the street to our driveway. It weighed about 75 pounds, and was a bit more rigid than I had imagined. My section had five pieces of one-inch rebar inside the curl. I cut the wires tying two of the heavy rods to the frame with a pair of metal snips: with just three braces, the helix quivered appealingly.

I dug a two-foot deep hole, sixteen inches wide, in the perennial bed in the back yard. Becky and her friend Andrea and I toted the helix to the hole and planted it, flared side down. A bag of dry concrete around its feet, several gallons of water, and a night to cure, and the helix was secure.

Now it sways ever so slightly in the breeze, a tentative hop plant putting its fingers on the first rung, metal fingers seeming to sprout from the ground like eight-foot asparagus spears.

Also, yesterday, came the arbor.

I built the new garden bed in the shape of a rectangular capital "C," twenty-five feet long and ten wide, fifteen inches tall, with an inner "room" nineteen by four feet. Nowhere in the bed is more than two feet from somewhere a gardener might stand. With a dedicated water line connecting to a hose bibb in the inner "room," it's the most luxurious vegetable garden I've ever worked in.

The gap in the "C" is five feet across, perfect for an open welded metal arch to hold a few vines. We brought the arbor from Lafayette, red nylon poncho flapping from the end in lieu of a hazard flag as we drove the truck through the Briones hills: it fit perfectly in its appointed spot. I planted a Cabernet Sauvignon vine at its base, explained that it was to cover the arbor next year, thanked it in advance.

A half hour later a male Anna's hummingbird had adopted the arbor, screeching noisily from a bar near the top. Guess I know where we're hanging the feeder.

Added later...

Sitting on the front porch as the crickets sang, watching the garden cool off after another day in the height of summer, I heard a sharp noise like an old hinge pried open for the first time in a century. It came from behind me, above the roof and back. I heard it again, a few minutes later, seemingly from across the street. And then again, and again, moving each time. A raspy metallic squeal, and nothing. And then again.

And then the familiar clicking that wakes me each very early morning: barn owl. Two of them, flitter-clicking, hinge-singing, white wings dancing around each other as they faded toward Polaris.

Posted by Chris Clarke at August 10, 2003 08:15 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Oooh--barn owl clicking. Nothing makes the night more magical in my opinion. I love your calligraphic spider account!

Posted by: Pica at August 13, 2003 05:47 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs