postcard to lisa

“In Chamacuaro in 1923 lightning struck the door of ther temple and many women were thrown to the floor. Eufrosina Nieto, who was one of the fallen, invoked the miraculous Saint Nicholas and nobody died.”

She got up at 7 AM and probably ran five miles on the arroyo seco, which drains into the L.A. River, when storms run out of Hahamongna watershed, a Pasadena City-owned watershed where they siphon water for their town from the San Gabriel Mountains.

Yesterday evening we hiked down into the arroyo from Devil’s Gate Dam, which holds back a reservoir full of dry white gravel.  We carried a blue-throated skink and a red-eared box turtle.

They had been carried off athletic fields, which get regular soakings from sprinklers, by maintenance men and kids who delivered them to her to dispose of. We walked down the rocky eroded trail into the canyon of the arroyo in toyon, alder, eucalyptus, yucca, creosote, buckeye, buckwheat and brush, looking for water holes and found none.

Drought. Even as we drove north through Pasadena, past barriers and cops directing traffic away from some mass spectacle at the Rose Bowl, where ten of thousands of teenage girls and their moms were amassing for who knows what weird ceremonies and rituals (and traffic was royally fucked up, cops everywhere, parked at intersections, light bars flashing), brown smoke of fires rose from the south (from Chino Hills?) and from the west, smearing the sunset with rusty color.

devil's gate postcard

Although she was hungry and protested against it, we parked in the falling dark and took a flashlight and walked in the dark up the creek behind the lights shining in the new parking structure at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus, with its parking lot emptying out, last workers on satellites and space projects, mars probes and secrets of outer space, project managers (one of whom we know is a belly dancer in her spare time) and rocket scientists heading home to the freeway home, an owl in the tree looking down on us as we looked down on JPL.

We crossed the first bridge over the creek and found flowing water under it. The skink was let loose in the sand by the boulders and the turtle was placed on the edge of a pool in the rocks, under white alder. It waited awhile, emerging from its shell, to stalk into the pool.

Night mountain bike riders with lights mounted on their helmets passed us heading up into the dry rocky mountains. The owl was gone. We drove to our favorite Thai restaurant.

And the Chinese kid who drowned, he is alive, though with visible brain damage—he is back in school, fighting to regain the life he lost and grabbed back. His hands shake, he has weakness and short term memory loss from the stroke, but day by day he is fighting his way back.

devil's gate postcard1