Category Archives: salmon

Rough Cut: Prudenciana Elementary School

Rough Cut: {The True Story of “Prudenciana” Elementary School}

California history: Amesti history mural

A California History snapshot: Designed and painted by artist Guillermo Aranda, Mary Flodin, and Amesti GATE students in the late 1990’s, the mural above depicts the cultural and natural history of the land where the school was built, from the time of the native Ohlones through the Rancho period, to the present.

Prudenciana Elementary, where Aurora teaches, is a real school. It’s in the Pajaro River Valley, Watsonville, California, on the agricultural South end of Santa Cruz County. In the 90’s, it was surrounded by strawberry fields. Prudenciana is not the actual name of the school, of course. Can you guess what the school’s name really is?

The school is one of the oldest in the county. It was founded by Señora Prudenciana Amesti, wife of Señor Jose Amesti. Don Amesti owned of one of the magnificent grants of California land bestowed by the Mexican government in the 19th century. Amesti’s wife, Prudenciana, was a devout Catholic and a great supporter of education. After her husband’s death, she gifted some of her vast land holdings to the Church for the establishment of Our Lady of Help Church (“The Valley Church” – first Catholic church in the region) and for an orphanage overseen by the Catholic priests. She also gave land to the county for an elementary school named for her late husband.

The history of this school, site of one of the great Spanish Ranchos that define California history, is rich. So much backstory I want to share about the school, the church, and the orphanage has already been cut from my novel. Yet I feel that someone may be as interested in this history as I am. Am I the only one?

My editor says historical backstory slows down the movement of the novel. I believe her. She’s a pro. She knows today’s commercial fiction market. She wants me to rush readers to the end. They want page turners after all, right?

But isn’t that kind of like rushing through your life, skimming over the deep water, in a hurry to reach your death? Don’t we need to slow down and savor the details, the beauty, the mystery,  along the way? What do you think? Cut this?

Maybe I’ll post more of the fascinating history of Our Lady of Help Church, the orphanage and Prudenciana’s school here, in this blog. Would that be of interest to you?

students and teacher prepare to paint the mural

students and teacher prepare to paint the mural

Amesti History Mural

Mary Flodin and Amesti GATE students prepare to paint the Amesti History Mural, designed by Guillermo “Yermo” Aranda – Arts Council Santa Cruz County, Mary Flodin and their students.

Chapter 15. Monday, August 15, 1998.
Prudenciana Elementary

At Freedom Boulevard, Aurora exited Highway 1 and drove north toward Prudenciana Public Elementary School. She drank in the landscape of the Pajaro River Valley as if savoring the terroir of a good wine.

The little school nestled at the base of coastal foothills that had been thrust and twisted up from the sea geologic eons ago. An upraised scar on the face of the land, the foothills bore evidence of the epic clash of monumental tectonic plates. The Continental shelf forced the Pacific plate down, and the Pacific shoved back, pushed up from underneath, and caused the Continent’s skin to buckle and fold.

Through a deep gash in the scar, winter rains washed off the hills, down Corralitos Creek to Rio Pajaro. For centuries, Rainbow trout had been migrating downstream on spring rains, over the natural willow-lined bedrock of Corralitos to the Pajaro, pushing out through the rivermouth into Monterey Bay. And for centuries, adult Coho and Steelhead had been navigating back home by moon, stars, and scent from the vast Pacific Ocean, bringing the rich gift of nutrients from the sea to the people up stream.

Aurora parked and slid out of her Miata with only a little stiffness and pain. She stood for a moment in the parking lot, stretched, and rubbed the red, raised scar on her leg. The stitches had finally mostly dissolved.

Shreds of summer morning fog clung to the coastal hills. The bell tower of the original one room schoolhouse peaked  over the roofline of the new elementary school.

That first school had been built near the creek about 1880 on land donated by Señora Prudenciana and her daughters – but a small gift from Señora Prudenciana, whose rancho was one of the most extensive and beautiful of the Californio ranchos granted to favored elite by the new Mexican government after the closing of the missions.

The old schoolhouse had served the children of Italian and Portuguese fishermen and farmers. And the children of Mexicans, many of them displaced from their almost royal status as patrons of vast rancheros to become landless peasants. Children of the nearly invisible indigenous people, and of the industrious and prosperous Japanese, so adept at farming and fishing, attended the one room schoolhouse. The Filipinos came to fish, and the Croatians turned apple blossoms into gold. The Chinese came, hoping for gold. But forbidden by law to mine the yellow metal, instead, they built the railroad that connected East to West across the continent, and they settled in camps around the Monterey Bay called China Beach, and China Town, to fish and sell, and raise children more American than Chinese. The English, the Dutch, and the Irish brought their food, their customs, their gods and myths, and their children. And the one-room school served the children of every immigrant group, from every continent, of every creed, color, and culture who washed onto the shore in wave upon wave, hoping for a better life.

Around the schoolhouse, these pioneers fished the rivers, the streams and the bay, and planted apple orchards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes, flowers, berries and salad greens in the fertile alluvial soil, the black gold, gifted by the river gods of the abundant and generous Pajaro, River of the Birds.

In 1947, the parcel of land where the historic one-room schoolhouse stood had been sold to a family who’d restored and preserved the building. On an adjoining parcel, also part of Prudenciana’s original gift, a modern elementary school was built. Heritage apple orchards surrounding the school were torn out to make way for lucrative strawberry fields. Otherwise, not much had changed in the hundred years since the schoolhouse first opened its doors to the children of the Valley.

Aurora loved teaching California history to fourth graders in this historic location. Thinking about the school and the land, she smiled to herself, hefted her book bag over her shoulder, and set her course across the parking lot for the school library, and the first faculty meeting of the year.

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Tipping Points: How Global Warming is Changing Our World

The photo above is linked to a Community TV YouTube broadcast of four scientists discussing the question: How Global Warming is Changing our World. Have we already triggered tipping points from which there is no going back?

I sought the advice of these and several other esteemed climate scientists when writing the following excerpt from my novel, a “chronopost” from the year 2065 AGWD (after the global warming deluge).

The action of my novel unfolds in 1998-99, in the context of the dot com and real estate/development bubbles and public concern about the Ozone Hole. There is an undercurrent of growing awareness about Climate Change. The signs, such as the extinction of the Coho salmon in the nearby creek, and salt water intrusion into the aquifer of the fertile agricultural valley are ominous. People are beginning to realize that Global Warming is changing our world.

Fruit of the Devil is structured much like a conventional thriller/mystery, with a ticking clock marking off the days of the school year. But there is a paranormal edge: According to Haida legend, after spawning, the Salmon People swim downstream to their “Village Under the River”, where they step out of their salmon bodies and live peacefully as native people until it’s time to return “upstream” and offer their gifts to the humans once again. At time the novel takes place, with climate chaos already setting in, the fabric of both worlds is unraveling, causing anomalies, such as time leaks, allowing “chronoposts” from the year 2065 to drop into the narrative.

 *     *     *     *     *

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about forty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

* After Global Warming Deluge                                        

 What to Do About Climate Change?

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about fourty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

 

* After Global Warming Deluge 

– See more at: http://bluebirdcreek.net/blog/chronopost-year-2085-message-future/#sthash.XGRNjxQz.dpuf

3rd Year of Restoration, 2065, A.G.W.D.*
Recording #568-e from the archived collection of Dr. Melody A. Escobar, Anthropologist
Narrator: Yáahl, an old Storyteller, Age, and Tribe Unknown.Claiming to be from Naadaayi Héen a Tayee, the Village on the River Under the River, an area not locatable on the GPS

Tape 3: The Consequences of Global Warming

                  We were like frogs in a kettle of water. We didn’t notice the water heatin’ up, ‘til it was too late to save ourselves.

                  Old folks talked about the weather actin’ strange. And on the news, people even heard that sea levels were risin’, drownin’ whole island countries and swampin’ coastal cities. But that all seemed far away. At first, it jus’ wasn’t real to the people who could actually do somethin’ about it. Nobody wanted to come out an’ call it Climate Change or Global Warming.

                  Folks jus’ couldn’t wrap their heads ‘round the idea that humans could make a whole planet’s climate go haywire. Anyway, everyone was jus’ too damn busy workin’, makin’ money, takin’ care of their families, and tryin’ to get on in the world to spend any time worryin’ ‘bout the oceans rising.

                  By 2014, when we’d wiped out over half the diversity of life on earth, including most of our large mammals and ninety percent of the big fish in the ocean, only a few people took much notice. Living in cities, people heard about it on TV, but I guess it jus’ didn’t seem real.

                  Once we’d lost all the elephants and whales, most of us got it, but it was too late. See, we triggered too many tipping points. Seems that warming the Atlantic Ocean stirred up Pacific trade winds at a level no one had ever heard of or seen before, and that triggered a sudden deadly runaway heat wave. Now, we’ve got a six degree centigrade temperature increase. That’s about fourty-three degrees Fahrenheit, in case you didn’t know. And the temperature is still rising. We don’t know if any humans are gonna survive, or any of the other big animals either. We jus’ hope some small kind of life will endure on Mother Earth, and will start over without us.

                  You wanted to know ‘bout the other tipping points? Well, the Arctic ice sheet, being white, reflected heat back into the atmosphere, and that helped keep Earth’s climate stable for millions of years. But when the temperature started to rise ‘cause of our fossil fuel binge, and the polar ice melted, well – the water underneath was dark, and that absorbed even more heat. That’s called a feedback loop. We triggered lots of them. Like melting the permafrost, which released underground methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The ice caps melted and methane fires burned in the sea. And the atmosphere got hotter, which melted more permafrost. And so it went. No stopping it.

                  Thing is, it woulda taken four or five planets worth of water and food, forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and fish in the sea to support our hunger and drive for more. Mother Earth jus’ couldn’t carry all seven billion of us. She gave out. Like aphids, we sucked the life outa her.

                  She got the sweats, with crazy storms and floods. In some places, sea level rise happened slowly at first. Sea water began to push into aquifers; we got salt water in wells and agricultural fields. But other places were inundated all at once. Whole cities drowned. People said these were “hundred year floods”, until they were permanently underwater.

                  In some areas, it rained too much, but other places, the rain jus’ stopped fallin’ altogether. They made it worse by cuttin’ down forests. Fertile soils were paved over, or blew or eroded away. It got hotter and hotter. Drought. No water. Farmers couldn’t depend on a stable climate that they understood. And Mitsinto destroyed our food seed bank, so the seeds we had couldn’t adapt to the changing climate. Pesticides killed bees and other pollinators. When the pollinators went extinct, that caused the demise of thousands of plants. Which in turn caused the extinction of still more pollinators. Feedback loops. At first, people didn’t notice, as our food supply winked out, one pollinator at a time. But when crops failed all over the world, competition for food got desperate, and dangerous.

                  Things unraveled fast. Transportation, electrical power, communications, medical care, services of all kinds started breaking down. Crime, violence, and terrorism kept getting worse. When fuel got too expensive, shipping and transport failed. People who depended on an international food supply chain could no longer get what they needed. Everything was disrupted. There was fear and chaos. Starvation spread. Famine.

                  The suffering has been indescribable. More than a billion people starved to death in Asia, Africa, and South America. China and the Middle East have nearly annihilated each other in wars over food and water. Extreme militarization at the borders of the US and Northern Europe kept out the millions of starving, terrified refugees, for awhile. But finally, even rich countries couldn’t buy food. Places where crops could still grow were under constant attack. Armed soldiers guarded farmers while they harvested. There were riots. People would do anything for food; even kill.

                  Epidemics and plagues crossed borders, and spread like wildfire. People found out that weapons and military strength could not keep out the diseases. Even with mass graves, we were not able to bury all the dead.

                  With no one left lookin’ after the nuclear power plants in Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Europe, Australia, South America, the US . . . they all melted down.

                  The oceans died, all of a sudden. Acidification, they called it.

                  For those few of us that’s left, life is different now. What we used to call civilization is gone. Could things have been different? Maybe, if people woulda just woke up in time.

 

* After Global Warming Deluge 

– See more at: http://bluebirdcreek.net/blog/chronopost-year-2085-message-future/#sthash.XGRNjxQz.dpuf

 

 

 

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