Here in the canyon we are used to waiting for rain that doesn't always come. Winter is the season of rain and greening here in Central Coast California. While others across the country are hunkered down before the fireplace, watching snow pile up around them or waiting for spring to bring those first tender green leaves to the tall gray tree skeletons, here in the canyon our winter green begins. A couple of small rains have started the tiny spikes of bright emerald grass, hopeful symbols that more will come . . . if only the rains come on time.
The canyon floor is made up of the silt and sediment from millenia of floods that scourge and then gently deposit the residue washed from the surrounding hills. The creek has meandered around from side to side, building here and tearing away there, but now that ranchers and farmers live here, it is hoped that meandering can be controlled. Who needs to see their hay fields inundated or to see a really big storm year wash away small plateaus where grape vines are growing?
The creek doesn't flood and flow every year. Our last flood was two years ago when for two weeks the creek roared and raged, wiping out the graded road and depositing rock and debris where it hadn't been before. After that two weeks, a few hardy souls with 4-wheel drive vehicles ventured to ford the waters, finding purchase where they could and forging a new pathway to the paved county road beyond. Then, emboldened by those pathfinders, I made my first attempt.
I have to say it is exhilarating to live in this living canyon, where geology is not a word in a textbook. My own little rented cottage is safe, crouched as it is beyond a beautiful upthrust of shale that diverts the flood across the canyon and down the other side for a short way before it once again chooses its own way, finding the path of least resistance.
And so, this morning I am waiting for the promised rain, for the three sweeping storms off the Pacific that will drop inches and inches of rain in three or four days, enough to wake the creek dragon. When that happens, I will open my front door of a morning and listen to the roar that fills the canyon, reminding me that we are insignificant in the face of even this rather limited display of nature's power.