Posts Tagged ‘water’

Water Choice

17 February 2011

Dear J-

Going north we pass through the restored wetlands at Del Mar — you climb up a big hill once you’re past Carmel Valley and when you’re back down to sea level you’re at Del Mar before climbing back up to Solana Beach and points beyond. Usually after it rains in the mornings there’s a low fog bank hovering over the wetlands, clnging to the earth like a favorite blanket clutched tight at night. Earth, sea, and sky all merge into a unifed whole and remind us that the promise of spring, daffodils and irises, blustery March and thawing snowcaps is just around the corner. It is the last stretch of undeveloped land until you get up into the Marine base at Camp Pendleton.

Of course when it’s raining hard enough — or mistily enough, as yesterday — you get the disconcerting feeling that someone’s trying to drown us with the air become water and the betraying earth refusing to drain it away (some of the puddles and potholes that form after late winter rains around here, with the ground already saturated, are subject to their own tides, it seems). I remember that first winter spent going back from Boston to Davis where it seemed every time I touched down in Sacramento it kept pouring down, forming my first impressions as a city ruled by rain. Those who’ve moved here recently might say the same even with clouds and mist giving way to sun today.

We grew up away from water, J-, and I wonder if that hasn’t influenced where we ended up. In Davis during rice season they’d flood the Yolo Causeway. I would drive to work thinking I was somewhere amongst the Florida Keys, I-80 a narrow ribbon bisecting water as far as they eye could see. Crossing the campus at Berkeley I’d make it a point to linger on the bridges across Strawberry Creek. Boston and Cambridge are divided by the Charles, and everything I did, photographically, that first year had to do with water water everywhere. We make funny choices unconciously guided by fate or fortune, but isn’t it all always right?

Mike

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Water’s Edge

31 August 2010

Dear J-

I’ve driven home from the beach barefoot — the rime of salt and sand slowly drying as we motor along. When I get to wherever that particular there is, I swing my legs over the side and brush off my feet before getting out of the car, shaking the memory of sun and surf off my head before moving on to more permanent things. Sometimes it feels as though my memories are suspect, like sand castles built too close to the tide line; bringing the remnants home helps to anchor them in my mind. There is nothing like walking barefoot on sand, but I posit there is also nothing like walking barefoot no concrete with sandy feet, nor is there anything like the feel of the worn rubber pedals under bare feet.

I could probably count the number of beaches I’ve been to on a few hands. I think humans have been to any interface between land and water at least once, however; there’s something that draws us, with the inconstant water slowly wearing on the permanent fissures of the land. The water’s role, playful and beguiling at times, stormy and furious at others, contrasts with the solid, stolid earth, reliably predictable and plodding. It is the study of dynamic contrasts that gives us drama.

In the quiet of the dark morning the sea continues its relentless pursuit of each wave ashore followed by another, and another. Light brings activity, and when the light goes down, we build our fires on the beach, heaped high with the castoffs from the ocean, crackling fluid flames reaching into the night until we grow restless and restful and leave the cycle to start again. If you focus on the patterns in life that’s all you’ll ever see, the same series repeated ad infinitum, just as if your world is full of conflict, that’s how you’ll approach your life. The two blend together at water’s edge; you perceive them at once, forever and instantly.

Mike

Water Again

14 August 2009

Dear J-

Yesterday I came home and found figgy at home, early; she’d been pulled from day care — the cardinal sin there is leaving or sending a sick kid. Later that night we debated it a little but ended up deciding that I should stay home — whereas I’m a fairly replaceable cog in the machine (with sick time, natch) theVet is, well, the Vet most of the days she works and it would be nigh-impossible to find a short notice fill-in.

Nevertheless I’d been contemplating a Friday off for a few weeks now; between extended traffic in the afternoons and the usual barrage that comes for asynchronous schedules Fridays have been less about getting psyched up for the weekend and more like dreading the coming Monday for the next three days. Today was doubly nice because of the sudden notice; though figgy was up at 2 (between hunger and dehydration, she had a rough night of it), it gave me an opportunity to make some early calls — precluding the inevitable awkward conversation.

This morning was slightly hectic, as we ended up bouncing from store to store getting the usual bland diet supplies — cottage cheese, applesauce, bananas — before we found ourselves at the beach, drawn as if by magnets to the salt air and surf.

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We are indeed lucky in where we live; if not for the traffic and lack of parking, we would have been fifteen minutes from house to sand. On our honeymoon we spent a week in Maui; we could be found every afternoon in the sea, rain or shine, because of the proximity to the water. figgy and I, we plunged into the surf this morning; we waded in until our hems were wet and splashed like loons. Today we let the water pull at our ankles, sand rushing out with the waves; as soon as I turned off the freeway she was already asking about the ocean, going to see the ocean, going to feel the sand give slightly under bare feet, going to swing and skim the water. Our steps quicken; shoes are discarded and before long we’re in the water again, always.

Mike

Water Ways

17 June 2009

Dear J-

Through some sort of strange coincidence we found ourselves at two of the Department of Water’s stations along the I-5 corridor, the San Luis Reservoir and Pyramid Lake. The timing had something to do with the flood in figgy’s pants and something to do with her behavior, as she ran away the restlessness in the visitor’s centers. The total trip takes roughly ten hours each way with all the stops figured in (we made three each time), though we are now running low on unique places to pull over — that middle part north of Santa Clarita and south of Highway 152 is pretty desolate.

The San Luis reservoir is down in volume, as I noted before — when we pulled over the winds were amazingly fierce, in sharp contrast to the baking heat at Pyramid Lake. The Southern California site is more glitzy inside too — blinking lights and animated displays showing the tortuous path water takes from Lake Oroville to Lake Perris. The hours we spent are nothing before the mighty civil works; I grew up not far from Grand Coulee Dam and am constantly amazed at the scale of machines. Yet with all that said, why they can’t make I-5 any wider north of Fullerton to keep traffic faster than a crawl makes no sense at all. Should they eventually build the promised high-speed rail system that’s one stretch of road I won’t miss.

The one constant was figgy running laps at each stop — kid’s got energy to burn and the last thing she needs is to be strapped to a chair for ten hours and forced to sit still or sleep; we’re still trying to get her to fall asleep for the night. We’re still learning about each other, you know, and the more I understand the more we can make sense of the things we do.

Mike

Water Way

3 March 2009

Dear J-

Watch the drifts melt away; March was always the month with the biggest changes.  Snowbanks piled as high as your head would end up reduced to sad, crusty ruins by the end, with brittle edges to snap off into the ever-rushing melt stream.  Let it go; so flows the water, so goes my mind.  If it’s easy enough to release torrents — just through a bit of sun smiling on the earth — it should be as equally easy to let things go.  Retain perspective.

When you drive through Camp Pendleton on I-5, there’s a series of hills rising up just inland of the freeway near the county line.  They fold in complex shapes, they rise in rugged repose as far back as you might care to imagine.  I watch them and trace paths through the narrow canyons with my eye, torturously zig-zagging back and forth until I’ve reached the top in my mind.  Is higher better, after all, or is it mere distance that makes it the accomplishment that it is?

Where are we in life?  Is the path now obscured by the next bend, or the rise, or thick woods and mist, or does it spread out in an straight arrow inviting a sprint?  Do we rise?  Does the fall have a bottom limit?  Water finds the easiest route, sure, but it cuts mighty deep with time:  water does not rest.  Water has pushed through the hills; water shapes their faces and carves lines of age.  Do I pick the path or does the path choose me?

Mike

Yellow Tags

1 March 2009

Dear J-

We got these with our newspaper today — saw them previewed in yesterday’s paper, so it was like finding the prize in your cereal box.  Except it wasn’t fun.  And there was no tasty cereal to be had, either, just dry newsprint.  Okay, it was completely unlike having a nourishing breakfast and more like getting a punch in the gut after starving all night:  a shameless attempt at shaming us into compliance, using us and our neighbors, instead of the city, as the bad guy.

tattle-0942-sm-c
Based on the rainfall totals, we live in a desert — one that lots of other folks have chosen to live in as well, and tempered by the nearby ocean, but in a place where there’s little rain and much sun, we end up having to import a bunch of water to feed our suburban dreams of lush lawns and water features when we could have had our government working for us, not against us.  Of course, now that the consecutive years of drought have strapped us to the point where they’ve chosen to force conservation AND raise water rates, I have a few yellow door hangers of my own — for the city government of San Diego, that is.

[ ] You ridiculed water recycling
By consistently calling it “toilet to tap” you grossed out even the most ardent supporters and allowed the public to buy up your anti-recycling stance.  Please perform more education on gray-water recycling, rainwater catchment, and xeriscaping instead of supporting disproportionately higher fees as a means to mask the budget crisis.

[ ] You chose to vote down power plants
It’s easier to give firefighters money for feeling sexually harassed for marching in the Gay Pride parade than it is to open a new power plant in California, let alone the city limits.  Yet desalination as a means to supplement, if not provide the freshwater needs of a city seems like the most basic move in SimCity, doesn’t it?  If you’re serious about serving citizens, something that’s inherent in the phrase ‘civil service,’ use increased fees to fund long-term projects, such as a combined power/desalination plant.

[ ] You voted to increase development willy-nilly
Rather than hold developers accountable for increases in city services (infrastructure, including roads, water, electricity, and sewage) you never met a development project you didn’t like, choosing potential property tax dollars over improving the city.  There’s a long list of potential offenses, from hiring Jim Waring to handing over the Naval Training Center to Corky McMillin.  Instead, think smart and stop letting developers run the city permit office, start holding them accountable for their projects and enforce added traffic/infrastructure studies.

[ ] You continue to pollute the ocean
Instead of upgrading the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant to comply with federal standards, you choose to flush potentially recyclable potable  water out into the ocean and tell us it’s our fault instead.  Enforce and expand the use of recycled water throughout city offices instead and be a model for the citizens, rather than an excuse.

Mike

Island Mind

14 July 2008

Dear J-

I’ve had Hawaii on the brain for the last couple of days and I think I finally understand why:  we got married in 2000 and promptly ran off to Maui; in 2004 we’d had enough of not having real vacations, so we went to Kauai.  Yet this year, nothing; we’d rather not subject figgy to the sensation of spending five hours strapped to a seat when she’s just getting up and mobile.

Hawaii’s significant to me as the first place we took an extended trip together without the schedule-planning influence of older folks or school or fitting in around someone else’s desires; we went with no plans other than having a car and a place to stay and no to-do checklist.  Back up for a moment, now, to 1981 and somewhere between Calgary and Banff.  There’s four adults and four kids crammed into a car that’s designed for six, a contemporary Ford Fairmont, and we’ve got an itinerary.  Must see.  Lake Louise, Vermillion Lakes, glaciers, Continental Divide.  I remember several things from the trip, but the opalescent jade glacier-melt lakes were not among them, instead, sneaking way too many people into a single room, being jammed up next to grandma for hours at a time, and the feeling of being on the road.  Forever.

When we went to Kauai four years later there was even less planned out, but the moments we had still sparkle in comparison:  I remember getting up what felt like insanely early thanks to still being adjusted to mainland time and getting out to the trail at the Na Pali shore just after sunrise and hiking that rugged path without seeing another human for what felt like hours.  Afternoons, we’d hit up a rental shop and find someplace to snorkel (the Tunnels near Hanalei being a particularly nice spot).  It’s not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy traveling with my parents, but  I think I might be too spoiled to.

It was less about the place and more about reveling in freedom — no schedule, no pressures, just finding something to bum around with for a few hours and then back to the hotel, back into the water, swimming every afternoon and knowing the biggest decision of the day was coordinating all the meals together to avoid eating the same thing twice.  Yeah, we can handle a shift in schedule.  We’ll pencil that in around the snorkeling and napping.

Yesterday we’re slathering on sunscreen and preparing to head down to Mission Bay.  Sun.  Sand.  Warm water, palm trees, shoreline gently sloping into the water, public-access parking and I look at the odometer:  only five miles from home, only five miles to that Hawaii state of mind.  We’ll be back, I promise.

Mike