August 09, 2002

"Every drought ends with


"Every drought ends with a good rain"

The cool breezes and early autumn sunshine are welcomed today, a respite from the unrelenting heat of summer. But the wind and sun also are the enemy, carrying away what little moisture is left in the pasture grasses, gardens and creeks. More than that, even the underground rivers and caverns that vent to the surface, forming the heads of mountain streams like Goose Creek over there between the house and barn, are silently ceasing to flow. More water has risen from tree and soil to the thin clouds overhead than has fallen from sky to earth during the past three months.

No current moves the surface of the creek, though the minnows, now in high-density housing, are stirring the waters in a clostrophobic struggle to eek specks of food from what little water remains in the isolated, shallow depressions here and there along the creekbed. We are in the midst of a drought. There is a tendency to take this dry, parched weather personally, so we are trying to keep the cycles of nature in perspective.

Our valley was formed as a tiny water-carved scar on the side of the later stages in the wearing down of the ancient Appalachian mountain core, some billion years ago when land masses collided, lifting up a massive bulge of fire-born and hardened rock. It is difficult to conceive now that these green and gentle mountains began as a rocky dome higher and more craggy and hostile than today's Rockies. Millenia like nanoseconds end to end, of water in unbelievable floods have worn away the old rock, sand grain at at time, and carried our mountains down to become beach sand and delta soil, leaving soft and rounded, green, moist and water-worn remants of their former high magnificence.

One has only to dig down a bit over by the barn to know that rounded river rocks by the tens of thousands have been washed down the narrow Rhododendron-shrouded gorge of the nameless creek that flows together with Goose Creek not 100 feet from where I sit. This same creek, tumbling down from its springfed source, has meandered first against the resistant rock of the east ridge of our valley, then the west, then back again, each time widening our little pasture by imperceptible inches in 100 years...such an unthinkably long time to our mortal perspective, a flash of time in a million years of wind and sun, frost and floods.

Floods are cataclysmic, sudden, drastic and evident in their consequences. Drought is chronic, insidious, draining life invisibly, quietly, leaving no record in the sands of geology's time. It is an abundance of water that has carved the hollow of the creekbed and made valley wide, not its absence. It is an abundance of water that has nurtured the broadleaved forest of these mountain hillsides. Drought has not formed this landscape, and it seems reasonable to hope that it will not subdue it now.

We will miss the rains for a few more weeks, for maybe one more season. But we must learn to see the cycles of wet and dry as the land sees it, and be still. If history is any lesson, the water will win the day.

Posted by fred1st at August 9, 2002 05:46 PM
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