Daniel Thomas and his wife live near Willows on land they call "The Ten." Those acres formed the center of the earlier "Essays from The Ten." Now, Thomas has essayed beyond "The Ten" to visit places within a hundred air miles of his home. Approaching seventy, and facing health issues that limit his sojourns, Thomas finds vast diversity right in his own backyard.
As he explains in "100 Miles" ($9.95 in paperback from Stansbury Publishing), "going west, I would travel across the Sacramento Valley floor over the Pacific Coast Range to the California coast. I would view fields of rice, rows of vineyards, mountain forests, and crashing waves. Turning north, I could visit majestic Shasta Dam, see the craggy peaks of the Trinity Alps. . . . Steering south, I could visit a refuge where a million geese and ducks winter. . . ." Yet the pieces in his new book are really about an inner journey to recapture the "sense of wonder" of a boyhood long past.
Thomas will be signing copies of his book at Lyon Books in Chico this Saturday at 3:00 pm.
What the author calls his "wanderitis" takes him to Fruto, "a small settlement hidden in the foothills some fifteen miles west of Willows" that no longer exists. His cousin David lived on a ranch seven miles away, and, back in the 1950s, after bicycling to the Fruto store, "the first thing he and I would do was to lean the bikes against the rough hewn posts supporting the slanted covering of an uneven wooden porch, stagger inside, hardly noticing the sounds of the squeaky pinewood floor, plop down dimes, and order a Nesbitt's Orange."
Near his property Thomas revisits the "Corning Domes," "the result of uplift on the eastern edge of a fault, called the 'Corning Fault,' located along Interstate 5 extending north to Red Bluff." The author and his son Marc recount paddling the Sacramento River from Redding, and it's clear Thomas is searching for "destinations that would restart my zest for life," the zest of that youth so long ago. He concludes that "I discovered once again that my reverence for the harmony and beauty of this particular part of California is well founded."
The awe has returned.