Tag Archives: water

AT SUNSET AFTER CHRISTMAS RAINS

Last flash of limbs

in a pagan dance

as shadows crawl

across the creek

to pull night’s curtain up

into the stars.

 

The canyon has come to life

with promises of spring—

birds and trees are talking

above the bulls’ primal bellowing—

tension spills with energy.

 

Shrill yips and howls

in every draw ignites

another all-night

canine celebration

to exasperate the dogs.

 

Even the old flesh perks up

with fresh strategies,

just in case the market’s up

and we get more rain—

just enough to do it over again.

RAINBOW

A promise from forgotten days of rain,

bold whites and blues and greens

flush the flesh clean as a hawk’s cry

 

in spring.  When we were children

here, we walked within our dreams

of endless rivers crashing and cascading

 

from the Sierra snowpack into the Valley

ditches and furrows, row upon row

to fill the cornucopia of the world.

 

But we have pumped the ground dry.

Is this a harbinger of better times, or

have the gods returned to say goodbye?

WATER

                                    Around here all the gods live in trees.

                                                – Jim Harrison (“The Whisper”)

 

It’s been tough on the woodpeckers: dry year,

no acorns in the oaks, yet

they still flap and squabble over bugs in the bark.

 

I can’t see the owls in the dark of dawn

as I wait for the black to disappear, yet

their mournful presence is good company.

 

Robbin likes the flock of little bushtits

flitting tree to tree, or washing-up at six o’clock

when the timer sprays the Mexican Sage.

 

Above it all, they’re smarter than the rest of us

to fly where they want—or most needed.

But around here we irrigate the trees.

OAK TITMOUSE

During hot and dry times

the little birds gather

around the house—

 

around water

leaks and irrigation—

more dependable

 

than humans:

woodpeckers clinging

to rainbirds,

 

bushtits flocking

to timed misters

at six o’clock,

 

quail rolling to a stop

at the water trough,

and swallows plunging

 

into the ‘sip and dip’.

But the thirstiest of all,

the nervous Oak Titmouse

 

at the dog’s dish,

one drop at a time

all day long.

IDES OF AUGUST 2021

Dust trails behind

plodding black cows off the hills

to water, bellies stretched with calf,

while we drink coffee—

 

and we are proud of these cows

who grazed uphill to bed

while we drank Tangueray and tonic,

slice of grapefruit instead of lime.

 

An acquired taste, raising cattle

through years of drought—

a bittersweet love affair

with the ground that sustains us.

 

We know her every crease

and wrinkle, and which leak water—

all of her magic spots

forever branded in our brains.

DAMN DAMS

I still call it “the Swamp”

where thirsty Valley Oaks

centuries-old shed their limbs

among barkless skeletons,

bleached bones like flesh

waiting to fall into the next life.

 

Half-mile across on Christmas Eve,

1955, the Kaweah flowed to the doors

of our ’53 Buick—headlights

diving into oncoming wakes

like Captain Nemo’s submarine.

 

Not free to run when it wants,

we have held the river up

in the hills for sixty winters,

only to let it run all at once

across the Valley to irrigate

orchards and summer crops—

no kids fishing from shady banks

a lazy river recharging wells.

 

We can’t fill the dams we have,

yet cotton trailer billboards suggest

that dams can make more water

without looking to the sky.

Bulls to Water

Our country is dry and short.  We’ve pulled the bulls off the irrigated pasture to make room for our bred heifers due to begin calving by the middle of September.  We will have to feed the bulls in this pasture where Allie and Terri were driving a few to water last week.  Even though we’ve sold 25% of our cows, we continue to step up the amount of hay we’re feeding with no idea of when it will end or whether it will pay for itself in the long run.  But if we have to sell more cows, we just don’t want them to be thin.    

HOT AND DRY

Cooper’s Hawk

under a rainbird’s shower,

yellow eyes

 

mermaid and frog

before taking a drink

at the ‘sip and dip’.

 

Too hot to hurry

in the heat

we all grow tame.

Happy 4th of July Weekend

Pulling the first of 12 joints of 20’ pipe plus the pump this morning after losing water last evening. We weaned our last bunch of calves Thursday when we hauled them out of Greasy, and were celebrating our good fortune until the pump quit.  Fortunately, Willits Equipment had time and personnel to replace the pump and control box by 1:00 this afternoon. This well also serves our house.

Just one of the joys of rural living, but we wouldn’t trade it for the alternative.

110 DEGREES @ NOON

Midday siesta, I dream of water running

down the Tule, ouzels dipping, or 

beer cooling in an eddy on the Kern—

of you and I, our faces streaked with rain

as if we were crying—love in our eyes.

All the mud-stuck trucks, leap-frogging,

winches whining as the clouds cracked,

bursting with more of the same.

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What else can we look forward to

this afternoon, inches from the Solstice,

what else can we do but dream? The air

is thin and burns the lungs. Leaves curl

in the garden while cows commiserate 

in the shade of sycamores and oaks,

all their stories stored within rings, 

chatter from the good old days.

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And what of native wisdom banked

in their massive trunks, or smooth gossip rocks 

in the living Live Oak shade?  All the secrets

we have lost to progress, all the important

unimportant things that have not saved time,

but accelerated it and our poor hearts

just trying to keep up. 110 degrees at noon,

what else can we do but dream?