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Creek Running North

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August 22, 2003


Pinole smells frustratingly like rain this morning.

Driving home last night, I watched a row of thunderheads to the east loosing brilliant bolts at the ground. Thunder shook the house. Another silver lining to the dark cloud of Zeke's faltering hearing: he sat outside with me as I watched the storm, rather than quavering in a closet and being insulted at our not joining him.

Back east this smell was a weekly event, a harbinger of temporary relief from the swelteringly humid days of July and August. Great billowing clouds would propagate from the superheated surface of Lake Erie, scut a bit east, then dump buckets onto harried commuters. Every now and then, a cloud would reach a casual finger down to the earth, select a person or five at random, and fling them into the sky like so much lint off an epauletted shoulder.

No such luck this week. Not a drop fell in the Pinole Creek watershed that I know of. Ten miles east, the Doppler radar showed cheery bands of warning red. Napa had warnings of hailstones the size of Muscat grapes, though the news today is remarkably devoid of prizewinning ice photos. A few days ago I tried to dig in the front garden with my trusty Japanese gardener's knife, but the soil was baked brick-hard. I was hoping for a little sky water to loosen the montmorillonite clay. I will have to wait.

I could have been in the Mojave. Flash floods took out a bridge on Interstate 15, forcing all those speeding Lexi heading from LA to Vegas to detour through Needles, to the intense consternation of would-be high-rollers. Good, says I. Force the urbanites to take a nice, slow, bumper-to-bumper look at the landscape along US 95 north. Serves 'em right for not knowing about Kelbaker Road - the obvious, much shorter detour that went unrecommended by the CHP due to its traversing a National Park.

A few years back, my pal Matthew and I were returning from a rain-soaked, rye-soaked camp in said National Park, heading west into the bared fangs of a much larger storm. Big rigs lay sprawled across lanes, their cargo soaking up rainwater and road oil, drivers with eyes the size of tea saucers kicking at roadside stones. Just outside Barstow a new water park - "Lake Dolores" - sloshed its incongruous pool in the wind, puddling the creosote. An appropriate name, I thought, as images came of the much larger lake on site twelve thousand years previous.

What wild river was truncated to fill that absurd swimming pool? Was it piped from the Colorado, shackled by a dozen dams? Or drilled from the Mojave, that flows underground for almost its entire length? I wetted my toes a half dozen years ago where the latter rises to the surface in Afton Canyon, listening to the song of Mojave Desert treefrogs in the Mojave Desert cattails as Mojave Desert dragonflies explored the zipper pulls on my pack. Now that's how you do water in the desert.

Posted by Chris Clarke at August 22, 2003 10:10 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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I had a meeting in Vallejo on the 21st. We drove through beautiful clouded shows of lightning and the promise of rain on Hwy 37. In Vallejo, the streets were wet with rain we'd just missed, and the smell was glorious (for Vallejo). But I didn't see any drops fall.
Fun weather we're having. I'd like to see this occur every year--solace after a cold winter.

Posted by: Lisa Thompson at August 26, 2003 07:34 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs