“I’m out to sing the songs that will prove to you that this is your world, no matter what color, what size you are, or how you were built.” Woody Guthrie
Yesterday I drove to the Central Valley to photograph the Fresno County Blossom Trail. I wanted to reconnect with the part of myself that knows Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and “Tom Joad.”
I have traveled home several times during the recent drought years to photograph the blossoms. The farmers found water, but each year life felt more desperate.
There is a beauty about the valley. Many people never experience it. Many people never experience the struggle either; they only read about it from John Steinbeck.
People have migrated to California for more than one hundred years searching for a better life. In the 1930’s, Okies searched for work in the fields of the Central Valley. In the following decades, people from other parts of the world have followed. California has not been known as a welcoming place. It’s been hard. Often, it’s been hard to find hard work.
Woody Guthrie was one of the Okies who arrived in California. He wrote many folks songs. He sang about life in California.
On this day in 1940, Woody wrote, “This Land is Your Land.” It was a protest song. He had grown tired of hearing “God Bless America.” He felt that the song had not been written for people like him. Originally, he titled his song “God Bless America for me.”
If my pictures could sing, I would want the lyrics to say something similar. God bless America for people like me too… and remind me to see the layers of beauty in the fields and reflections. (See the gallery from my recent trip here. I included 66 pictures – the number of the route used by many of the Okies who once migrated to California.)