I watch the sun rise in gold and pink splendor, shooting down the valley filled with the mist rising from the river there, looking from my plateau for the moment like an inland sea.
By noon, the mists are gone and there are green fields there instead, cows placidly grazing, pristine from afar but the air is way too country if you have to drive through it down there.
The graceful Lipizzaner horses, necks proudly arched, manes groomed, are led from their elegantly appointed barns into the yards by their trainers and put through the motions of dancing. They are the pride of our valley.
Drought all summer and there comes torrential rain and flooding with the Fall. The valley floods. It looks again like an inland sea.
Neither cows nor horses can swim indefinitely and though many struggle to rescue them, way too many drown, bloated corpses floating down the valley with flotsam of house and fences and cars… Only two of the Lipizzaner’s survive and it’s years before they come back to our valley again. It surprises me that they ever did.
The snow is heavy that winter, not something we’re used to. It blankets the muddy valley and the cows are all tucked away. From my perch, I can see a glacier, a river of ice in an ice age past and yet to come.
The spring is unusually warm and wet. A new mushroom appears in the valley: red with white spots, Fly Algaric, deadly poisonous to humans when fresh, hallucinogenic when prepared a certain way.
Cows are less picky. We watch them chasing their own tails, spinning dizzily, bellowing, and falling over like drunks, dopey, not dead, and a certain breed of mycologist flood gleefully into the valley then, leftovers from the hippy generation.
They call the mushrooms Magic. There’s a reason, you see, that the caterpillar sits smoking a hookah on one in Wonderland and secretly rules everyone there.
Calm for several years. More floods, fewer deaths. Houses being built Egyptian style on raised foundations. The insurance companies are becoming leery and weary of insuring flood plain homes and livestock. New levies have been built and hold most of the time at least.
The snow melt swells the river and again the valley floods.
The swans are delighted. They live for this place, graceful necks arched over their own reflection, drifting into the red glow of sunset.
I took the first two snow pictures (one from my bedroom, the other from the front door in the opposite direction) from my home on the other side of the valley from me now in December of 1976.
I took these pictures of the flood in November of 2006; the ones before in the summer of 2003. I wish I had some of what it looks like in the warm seasons when sunrise is early and I’m leaving for work. I’m not supposed to take a camera to work and don’t want to leave it in the car all day and I’m always to much in a hurry to get to work to ever stop. It’s difficult not though. Those are the times when the sight of the valley arrests me the most: filled solid with fluffy white sunlit clouds, the hills rising within and around it like islands and shore.
I glance to a little forward in time and see it as a genuine inland sea with salt marsh at its edges rather proper beaches. Either way, it’s no longer just a river valley that floods a lot.
A little more forward and the trees on the shores are inexplicably dying though there are now some big and healthy looking ones on the tiny islands dotting the sea. Soon there are no trees on the shores and only a few on the islands. There’s a lot of dry rotting logs everywhere and very little greenery. The sky is cerulean blue, strangely cloudless like the sky above a dessert. But it’s not warm out in this vision; it’s rather cool and very dry everywhere except in the salt marsh and sea.
A gallop further – a hundred years or a thousand, maybe more, the surface of the sea is smooth and white. The shore is white. The islands are white. I realize the sea has frozen, a glacier, and everything is covered with snow… in July.
That’s it. I’m not looking any further. There’s something disquieting about something that can metamorphose into such different states and still be fully recognizable because it masquerade’s so often as what it will be that it gets confused with what it is.
Here’s what the valley looks like in snow. I took this picture on a day in 2011 when I decided not to drive in the stuff and stayed home instead:
It looks almost like its far future self… ALMOST being a key word here. Take away the barrier, the power lines, the trees, and the glimmer of river there…. The scene is at once breath-taking and chilling. I’m sure I’ll be back here to see it again then.
Ha. I wonder if those houses on the high foundations will still be there or if it’ll only be the foundations? Pretty sure those, at least, will survive.