I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m writing a poetry collection about the creation of California. I’m trying to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.
I’m down to the last few poems here, and I feel there are just a few more things to say about the water. I know there are those who could write about it for years, make an entire career of it, but there are only a few more things for me to say.
This weekend was the 101st anniversary of the day William Mulholland opened the aqueduct to Los Angeles. He was exhausted and went to the opening ceremony to give a speech. The speech he gave was “There it is. Take it.”
It’s a strangely appropriate speech for the man to give. He had stolen the water from the farmers in the Owens Valley who had stolen it from the Native Americans who lived there before them. It summarizes for me the greed, ambition, and even strength that made Los Angeles what it was. This is a completely inappropriate place for the second largest city in the United States because of the lack of water. If people wanted to live here, that water had to be taken from someone.
Anyway, the place where the water flowed into Los Angeles is usually dry now. There are just better ways to bring it into the city. It is a large concrete sluice that comes down a dry hill with concrete divots along the way to slow the water and aerate it. The effect is a long steep rapids.
Because this was the 101st anniversary, the Department of Water and Power turned it on and invited people to look at it. I did.
What were my impressions? The energy of that much water moving is overwhelming. It is right on top of the freeway, but the dancing water drowns it out. It’s strange. The water seemed to give me energy as I stood there watching it, and afterwards my wife and I didn’t want to go home.
I don’t know what this is going to give me in terms of poetry. Maybe something about the dance that water does through the sluice. Maybe something about its noise and movement. I don’t know. It’s thrilling in its way to be standing there next to all that water moving with all that power. I suppose what’s most thrilling about it is that people have figured out how to control it. That’s beautiful and ugly at the same time.