Delta Queen

i am in love with the california delta.
right here, snaking out of sacramento and through what is lovingly called a "thousand miles of waterways" we have the largest estuary on the pacific coast. one of a few inverted river deltas in the world. five rivers including the sacramento and san joaquin rivers converge to create a lush world of water and levees and agriculture.

this area haunts me. i have a watery soul; maybe i was a river queen in a previous life, or a huck finnish vagabond on a wooden raft sleeping on forgotten islands amid vines and brambles. when i come to the delta i feel the diversity and beauty and strangeness of california's landscape, how many different places and souls and stories are here. suddenly i feel like i am in the south and at any moment an old rusty paddlewheel steamboat will come a-rollin up the river.

in the delta, everything is old and rusty and wooden. 
there are weather-beaten bait shacks with peeling old signs. 
there are lemon trees and creeping vines growing in empty plots between aged buildings.
there are pigeons roosting in open windows, junkyards guarded by billygoats, oranges plopping to the ground.

and everywhere signs of verdant life. for better or for worse, long ago workers struggled to build levees here and create one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the world where farmers grow walnuts, pears, sugarbeets, asparagus, grapes, corn, alfalfa, rice, and tomatoes in the rich peat soil.  

but mostly what i love are the tiny historic towns and a slow way of life that hearkens to older, gentler times. 
everything surrounded by ancient live oaks, guarded by swooping herons and hawks in the treetops.

i stopped to ask directions of a handsome fisherman in rubber boots. he had a well worn face and kindly told me, "it's very easy to get turned around here." and then proceeded to give me perfect directions through the delta, but when it came to the antioch bridge, well after that i'd better stop and ask someone else. this waterland was his territory, it was clear.
the winding levee roads take you back and forth across the rivers, turning right and left, crossing bridges, flying along down levees edged by wildflower-strewn embankments, surrounded by water, toward the sun and away, until you have no idea which direction is which.

where was i headed, you might ask?
my best-friend-from-high-school, kim, who lives in discovery bay, threw a big party for her little guy's first birthday.
and guess which aunty showed up almost two hours late?! sorry blake! this is what i walked in on....

but at least i finally got to see her new home and to try one of kim's scrumptious cupcakes! she has gotten very crafty in her mothering years; everything at the party was star-themed, and she made the white-chocolate stars on top from scratch. 

oldies but goodies! no matter how much time passes and how different we are, we will always love each other and have a ball together.

i left with enough time to meander back through the delta at sunset.
(everyone thinks i'm crazy to take this route but it really doesn't take much longer and it is soooo much more scenic!)

a kayaker even went peacefully by.
the guys across the river were out on their boat-decks and saw me taking pictures and i didn't even mind.

this next beautiful old building is in the sleepy town of isleton, home of the hugest crawdad fest this side of the mississippi. (sounds a little too disgusting for me, but i still like the vibe)

 i met tammy newell, the Delta Gourmet, who runs this adorable little thrift store and makes the most gorgeous willow garden furniture. 

she also eagerly gives out samples of her handmade organic and locally inspired treats. i got to taste some jalapeno herbed spread on celery sticks and a bitter chocolate cookie edged in pistachio nuts. she also gave me a raspberry chocolate brownie for the road and a cup of her homemade organic iced tea.
bridges everywhere criss cross the delta. sometimes they are up for boats to pass through. boats of all kind travel the delta as well; i saw speedboats and houseboats and rickety little wooden rowboats, my favorite. fisherman packing up their gear, fishermen arriving in rusty trucks with fresh bait to catch the sunset nibblers. i saw fish jumping out in the water and raptors diving from telephone poles all the way down to the water's edge.

this house is for sale!
maybe i can have a lighthouse look-out after all :)

farewell to these marshy lands and labyrinthine channels, presided over by the ghosts of old steamboats, not to mention miners and chinese laborers and native tribes who all struggled for life and land and freedom. 
i feel old and ghostly myself traipsing your meandering shores.
and lit up by an ethereal pink february light.

my digs:
embroidered tunic: this shop on etsy
green dress underneath (i liked the strip of orange at the hem): gift from anne!
blue leggings: this shop on etsy
mocs: thrifted a couple years back
necklaces: from a peddler a few years ago


anne said…
you know, i always wondered where the delta was! bordertown saints have a song called down in the delta, now i know what it's about :D wow! it looks sooo cool, your pictures are amazing! the delta gourmet lady seemed super nice. i love that furniture outside her shop!

i love all your layering, you look adorable!
you know that's where i grew up, right? right there. i saw on your facebook you were in Disco Bay. i grew up in that area, though back when i was there only the rich people lived in Disco. i lived a few towns over, where all the orchards used to be. i lived right out on the delta. did you ever read my post The Red Canoe? all my childhood memories are wrapped up in canoeing around the Delta. i love living up north, but i miss those delta nights, the breeze, even the vague stinkiness it can have when it gets real hot. now i miss home. thanks for this post.
oh, and next time you go, if you are willing to drive about 30 minutes east of Disco, there is an amazing place called Black Diamond Mines, where an old ghost miner town was, there is an amazing cemetary and great trails. you'd love it.
oh, and NEVER GO TO THE CRAWDAD FESTIVAL EVER. promise me you will never go. it is so horrible. i went once and it was girls gone wild. it's just horrible. drunk people throwing beads and sexually harrassing women and i sat in puke. never go. never ever. Isleton is wonderful though. just not on the crawdad festival. shudder.
Crystal Lee said…
I enjoyed your remarkable commentary on the California Delta. I had no idea. How wonderful it all is!
Ancient oak trees, old buildings and bridges, simpler times - sounds like heaven to me.
marygood said…
oh my goodness. i have been feeling pioneertown in my heart these last few days and have been craving a meander through a weatherbeaten town. so thank you for taking us with you through the delta. i kept thinking, 'oh, i would love to live someplace like this' and when i googled it, i realized it is considered part of the bay area?!?! so now i'm itching to check it out and will include it in our house hunt. double thank you for that! i love the sweet interaction with the fisherman too, and the way i can feel your way of being through your words. xo
Moon to Moon said…
Oh wow. I would love to get all the cool people i knew together and do up those wooden stilt houses and live happily ever after.

xxx Gabi xxx
Milla said…
holy smokes girl! I can't get over your radiance, like at all. You are so beautiful, little mama. Also, I can't show C. these shots, because he will flip out and pack us in the car and leave all responsibilities behind to see this. When we were up your way, he was all about the rivers. Just like you I think it's in his soul. Thank you for sharing.
Teeny said…
i'm jumping up and down ecstatic because i can go there! YAAAAAAAY for me! But enough about me. What about you! precious pregnant woman that you are, I bet you shone your light on that fisherman and made him stand 6 ft tall and all. I Promise, I'm going there. But after reading Brigit's comment, maybe not the crawdad festival, i stood in enough port-a-loo pee on the weekend, to last me a lifetime; let alone, ew, vomit.
Missa said…
WOW, I had no idea. No idea! Who knew the delta had such charm, such old timey draw?!?! Not me. I've never had the pleasure of exploring it. I did however recall Brigit's Red Canoe post while reading this though.

Now had I not seen the pictures of those enchanting (my new favorite word apparently, it seems to have replaced lovely ;) pictures of the old buildings with my own eyes, I may just have chalked this up to the fact that everywhere must seem a bit magical through your eyes Heather, but seriously, thanks for cluing me in that this has been here all along, and so close by!

You should be an off the beaten path travel agent, really :)
Missa said…
Not to mention, as Milla already gushed, you are a vision mama!
Anonymous said…
Ugh, my comment didn't go through! Poo.

So, what I was going to say:

I realize I tell you this on pretty much every post, but you seriously get more and more astoundingly lovely.

Photo heavy posts like this are amongst my favorites from you because they make me feel a little more connected. California, in a lot of ways, resembles this region. It's like we're inhabiting the same place, just on different planes. Maybe I can find a doorway over to your side...?

Celynne said…
There's just something about being near to or surrounded by water. I grew up on the shores of a large lake (big enough you can't see the opposite shore) and running through creeks and streams and I'm constantly drawn to new watery places. I love all those old wooden buildings. I seriously need to get my butt down to California someday... You look lovely, and I see really enjoying those stretch pants :D

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