It used to rain in California. Splashing, gutters bursting, garage floor flooding, rain. And in December, on icy mornings, my brother and I would search for sheets of ice in the yard, in various places like the creases in a crumpled up tarp, the empty wheelbarrow that had been gathering water, or in the bowl we set out for that feral cat. We would pick up the different shapes of ice, unbothered by the pain in our fingers, then drop them on the deck to watch them shatter like fine china. Sometimes we would even take the hose and fill those spaces back up with water so we would have ice the next morning. It used to rain in California, but not a lot.
When I was a girl, I read somewhere that rain water makes your hair soft, so I would leave a bucket outside during a downpour, to gather nature’s shampoo. It was too cold to dump over my head, so I would drop the ends of my hair in a bowl of it until I figured it had done its magic. I wonder now if it really made my hair any softer, or if I just believed it did, and if that matters.
There was rain and ice, but snow at our elevation was a small miracle. If it stuck, we would immediately put all our winter clothes on and run outside to make the muddiest snowman you’ve ever seen. In fact, neighbors built the base of their snowmen with rocks, to make the snow “stretch” and the next day, when the world was drippy and wet, you could spot rockmen in select yards. And maybe a carrot on the ground beside them.
One year, it rained so heavily, that the shed on the edge of Putah Creek crumbled into the water and floated away. It took its time, slumping closer and closer to the edge over the span of a week, and during that week, my dad drove us down to the water, and we watched its progress from our minivan until finally, one day, it collapsed. We cheered.
I remember the stream behind my house turning into a rushing river in the winter, and the dry places where we would play turning into puddles for water striders and tadpoles. There was a time when California was not so thirsty. When it rushed and bloomed in due season. That is the California I remember.
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