It amazes me how strong a connection people used to have with nature and how little most of us have now. Every now and then, though, a fleeting link does happen. I was sitting outside at my deck table reading and enjoying the warm day and a gentle cool breeze. As I sat quietly, a hummingbird buzzed by over my shoulder and dove into the bright red geranium flowers in a nearby window box. It flew on to sip the nectar from the petunias in a hanging basket. I sat quietly and watched it, with my book propped up and open, but not reading or even turning a page. This tiny bird flitted over to the table where I was sitting and visited the petunias in the bowl on the table. It was within twelve inches of my open book. When I made a chirping sound, it flew toward me and came to rest on the top edge of my book. It sat there for a minute, sticking its tongue in and out, looking directly at me. Another hummingbird buzzed over my head and chirped, and the two flew off. You can’t get much closer to nature than that!
Music and dancing were daily evening entertainment even in the California wilderness of the 1800s. Recently I heard on the radio the song “La Bamba,” made popular in 1958 by Ritchie Valens who sang it to a rock beat. Since it’s a Mexican folk song that originated in Veracruz, the Californios in the 1800s probably sang it during their dances, known as fandangos. The lyrics fit the story line for one of my chapters perfectly. Here is part of the refrain:
“Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán,
Soy capitán, soy capitán.”
When the commandant’s daughter María Antonia and Captain Richardson meet, this song is played at the evening dance. Here is the translation:
“I am not a sailor, I am the captain.”
The words seemed ideal for the scene of them getting to know each other.
California was once called Alta California when Spain and then Mexico governed the territory. All of the Spanish names come from the Spanish explorers and pioneers who settled there from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Are you curious about California history and California people? I have been curious about California, its beginnings, and its annexation by the United States ever since I lived there. How could you not be curious about a state that was once a nation for a week? I don’t live there now, but my curiosity has never ended. I think it is hard to get the emotional attachment to California out of your blood once you have lived there. When I did live in the state, I started researching California history and began writing about Captain William A. Richardson, and the early settlement of California, especially around San Francisco. I learned about historical figures for whom streets and cities were named and about the northern California wilderness called Yerba Buena that grew into the metropolis of San Francisco. After leaving a time-consuming career in publishing, I continued my research and began a novel, writing about the Miwoks, Ohlones, California missions, ranchos, brigs, schooners, and the early settlers from Spain, Mexico, Britain, Russia, and the United States. In my story, I intend to give my readers through the eyes of one man and his family an insight into the daily lives of people who struggled to survive during this time of political upheaval and social change.
When I started researching California history, Captain William A. Richardson’s name surfaced several times connected to the founding of the city of San Francisco and the city of Sausalito. Streets were named after him as well as Richardson’s Bay near Sausalito. He was the first mate on a British whaler that sailed into San Francisco Bay in the early 1820s in need of water, wood, and provisions. A romantic story was attached to his jumping ship to stay in Alta California. As a result, his life in California revolved around the sea, sailing ships, and the beautiful, charming Spanish daughter of the commandant in charge of the San Francisco Presidio, the Spanish fort that Mexico then governed. An ambitious, driven man, he built ships and adobe houses, sailed north, south, and west, became a ranchero, and was the friend of many famous historical people.