California

Snow Pack (Blood and Stone part 2)

It’s mid-August and there’s still snow on the Sierra Nevada. So many people I’ve talked to note the presence of patchy iced water with pride as if somehow all of us here in California did that. Made the rivers flood again and the Eastern Sierra fuzz green with our hope through the drought years. And now we have an abundance of water. A waste of water where rivers are swamping through towns and canyons. We’re congratulating each other that we’ll still have snow when it snows again. Snow pack on snow pack just like before.

At least that’s the narrative. But I can’t help thinking about the Pueblo People in the Southwest. Of their immense empire stretching through south and North America. With highways plumbed straight for hundreds of miles and villages set into sheer cliffs. Then they disappeared. Maybe war. Maybe disease. Probably both. A civilization gone leaving no written language except in the patterns of their black-hatched pottery.

Most scholars think it was a drought. Not just a year, but many bad years; not in a row but enough that even one good year couldn’t quench the thirst of the parched land. And then the land refused even the good years of rain, hardened to concrete, sending silt and flood through fragile ecosystems.

I wonder if those people felt the same pride when they sang the big belly clouds over their patch of earth. When they saw the fragile green of shoots pushing through clay.

That green of vulnerable shoots is the color of hope, I think. The entire Sierra Nevada seems velveted in it with only a few naked granite crags rising stark against the sky like the geometric markings on the pottery of a people long vanished.

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