Leaps and Bounds
It's still a surprise to be here.
100% Corruptible Since 1979
Probably the people who would be interested already know that my dearest and only sibling, an older-by-three-years sister named Morgan, is expecting her first child in March. If you didn't know and you are interested and you feel you are someone who really should have already known but didn't until now, please do not be mad at me; you probably also know that there were a couple false starts that became real losses in the last few years, involving the kinds of emotions nobody wants to relive and lots of morphine and washing blood out of clothes in the wee hours while thinking, "now we will never meet him/her," and it's a shame two miscarriages might have made us wary and hesitant to get loudly celebratory even after the issue that caused them was taken care of. But that's how it is.
Anyway we're out of the woods now, third time's a charm, little bugger's kickin' her black and blue in there (I know because I SAW HIM), and OMG I'M GOING TO BE AN AUNT.
Technically I already am; she has a good and goofy and gracious stepson who is now 17 and whom we would not trade for all the world, and for all intents and purposes I am his Aunt, Aunt A (and also to two Labrador retrievers). Which was great practice; thanks, Cordale. (He can lift me. Which doesn't mean I can't still lift him, DOUBLE NEGATIVES ROCK.)
It blows my mind that without making a purchase or creating a pattern or deciding on size and color and fabric, my sister is making something -- make that someone -- out of nothing. Not really nothing, per se, but you know what I mean. We will have a new family member. We will have another person. A WHOLE, ACTUAL PERSON, sort of uninteresting at first, but wait 'til he starts walking and talking. He's going to argue with me someday. I can tell.
Yeah, it's a boy. The first two were, too. And she's not sure they want to use the name she had picked out when they started down this road. And that's okay. She can name him after the 14th king of Judah for all I care, even if it freaks out the Grandmas.
When we were little girls in our polyester and cable knits and moon boots in the Wyoming of 19-- when the snow actually drifted so deep you could walk up it to the roof (or make tunnels in it big enough to walk through), we didn't play with baby dolls. We played with Breyer horses and Legos and cardboard refrigerator boxes. I remember a vague sense of unease when one day towards teendom she announced that she wanted a baby doll with a porcelain face and hands that looked like a real baby's, and she got it and put it in our christening dress. And when she would cradle it in her arms she looked like a mother. And I felt uneasy and left behind, because I didn't have that gene, the mother gene. (Or I did, but it was dormant.) And in California when Mr. Sixtus praised her very brain and insisted she go into chemistry or physics, or medicine even and cure cancer, she was like, "No, I just want to be a mom."
And she will be. In March.
There are other differences between North and South, and the big one is the one and only thing I was conscious of as a resident of the South: water. Specifically, its scarcity. In San Diego in the 90's you didn't flush the toilet unless it was... necessary. You didn't run the water while brushing your teeth. You didn't hose down the driveway or water the lawn daily, or waste water in any other way. Not to mention water was prohibitively expensive (and now I know why). But as someone in Yreka put it the other day, up here "we've got more water than we know what to do with." Which is why the State has been shipping it south since 1935.
The California State Water Project is as extensive as the American railroad system and as divisive as the Civil War. (I won't go into the politics now; that's another post entirely. But believe me, there's blood.) The SWP is comprised of 34 storage facilities, reservoirs and lakes, 20 pumping plants, 4 pumping-generating plants, 5 hydroelectric power plants, and over 700 miles of pipelines and open canals. It uses over 20% of the electricity consumed in the state. It supplies water to two-thirds of the residents of California from the Bay Area to the Mexican border, and irrigates 750,000 acres of farmland. In other words, it almost singlehandedly allowed the State of California to become the 7th largest economy in the world. It also provides recreation, water quality management, and flood control. Which brings me to the next thing that so fascinates me about what I consider "northern" California. (The people in Yreka think Northern California begins in Dunsmuir. They think of Redding as the South. Redding is 13 hours from San Diego.)
1928 saw the release of a Buster Keaton film called Steamboat Bill, Jr. You've seen a piece of this film whether you know it or not; the universally recognizable scene where the front facade of a house keels over on Keaton, who remains standing in the open window of the downed wall, scratching his head. Set in Mississippi, it was filmed on the Sacramento River, which, especially during the rainy season (November through April), could certainly pass for the Mississippi if you're only looking at one bank. And the romance of that movie river isn't just movie magic.
Like the Mississippi, the Sacramento River (joined near downtown by the American River) is a commercial conveyance, transporting goods down the delta to San Francisco. The grain towers near my corporate office in West Sacramento proudly say, "Port of Sacramento - Serving the Rice Industry." Having never lived near a large river before I'm amazed by the way people use rivers, and having never lived near a large river that runs into a major delta, I'm amazed by the way rivers shape people.
I remember flying in and out of Sacramento weekly a year ago and seeing from above the irrigated cropland, water standing in silver squares from the Sierra Nevada foothills to the sea. I remember a connecting flight in Portland that took me north over the rivers I would later come to know and bridge: the Feather, the Russian, the Eel, the American and Sacramento; and connecting flights in L.A. that took me over the delta, the Merced and San Joaquin.
I've had to learn a whole new language, living in this new California, in this wet place. It's the language of levees and rivers used, controlled, elevated, blocked, bled and rerouted: bypass and floodgate, dam, wetland, watershed, confluence, the language of raging watery nature barely contained. (Mom watched a History Channel show about degrading American infrastructure that featured a 15-minute segment on the Sacramento levees and how they're sure to fail if tested.)
But there's one thing I'll remember even long after I've moved on, when the North, this foggy, soggy green growing place, this wilderness, is nothing more than my history. That one thing is the side effect of powerful, unstoppable rivers combining, their evaporating ions wrangling the coastal barometer as they widen and writhe and slide into the San Francisco Bay (when we let them): the Delta Breeze. On baking, stifling Sacramento city nights, the oppressive stillness is often relieved by that wonder of wonders, referred to in tones of reverence and hope by everyone I met when I first arrived, before summer started in earnest. You can always count on the Delta Breeze.
But not on rivers.