Something in the Soil

Article excerpt

What produces a writer who, grounded so deeply in his native state, rousingly evoked the heights and depths of his characters' hearts and souls commensurate with powerful portrayals of lofty mountains and the arc of the ocean waves?

What nurtures the quirky genius of a New England immigrant whose imagination and unique skill in plant breeding were so productive and innovative that he was heralded by scientists and poets alike: "a unique, great genius" (the botanist Hugo De Vries) and "the man who is helping God make the earth more beautiful" (the poet Joaquin Miller)?

What yields the steadfastness of an isolated, rural woman who promoted radical ideas about women's suffrage and financial independence, persevering and finally translating her commitments into effective civic activism, including becoming the first woman in the country elected Master of a chapter of the Grange, the influential farmers' movement?

For each of these extraordinarily creative and gifted individuals, California provided the challenge, environment, and inspiration to carve a distinctive niche and establish varying degrees of recognition and status in their own times.

In this issue, Forrest G. Robinson sketches the life and labor of an author whose novels and nonfiction works replicated and memorialized his beloved California and his adopted second home of Hawaii. …