Saturday, January 15, 2011

Precious Water

MuRefuge’s landscape has been recently altered first by moving manzanita to the West of the “Give Peace a Hand” sculpture, second by cutting down three Douglas Fir trees for Christmas, and third by the uprooting by a huge windstorm of the curly willow on the Southwest corner of our property near the artisan well.  

And my internal landscape over the 2011 transition was purged when I contacted the flu.Thus an opportunity has been presented to allow different choices for both in choosing MuRefuge’s plantings and fuel for my human form.
While considering choices, I recall Chief Seattle’s quote
Humankind has not woven the web of life. 
We are but one thread within it. 
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. 
All things are bound together. 
All things connect.
and I feel compelled to make choices that will support a healthy, healing
web of life not only for the humans inhabiting MuRefuge but for all the other creatures who call this place home too.

With all the rainfall we have experienced thus far this rainy season the artisan well is running constantly.  Observing this artisan well brings to the fore how precious water is and how diminished our water table is.  When we first moved here California was amidst a drought and there was no evidence of an artisan well.  Then more abundant rains occurred and water was running up into the electrical system of our well’s pump.  Rerouting the water flow seemed prudent.

Dwight created a lovely set of cupped hands to catch the artisan well water before it flows into a very small pond.  

This small pond remained until about three years ago when the artisan well stopped flowing in late Spring, not reoccurring until the rain resumed.  The curly willow lost all of its leaves as did all of the native moist loving plants nearby.  This stopping and resuming has brought my attention to all of the individuals’ wells in the area.  Some of these wells are watering vineyards recently planted and washing fire trucks, others are keeping lawns green during the Summer, while a few of us are focusing on water conservation in a mirad of ways.

How long will our water table support us?  And might we learn from the story unfolding in the Eastern Sierras?


In the early 70’s, I was living in Sacramento with my Lakota (well 50% Lakota and 50% Canadian fir trapper really) former husband who was beginning to question the “white” upbringing his parents had chosen for him after leaving the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  We became involved in establishing Indian Studies at Sacramento State University.  I took one of the early classes on the history of water in California where I learned of thirsty Los Angeles, their quest to quench that thirst, and the arid destruction left in the wake.
It was in this class that I first heard about Mono Lake.  In Ted Konigsmark’s Geological Trips: Sierra Nevada on page 124 there is a black and white photograph from the Mono Basin Visitor’s Center showing the horizontal lines along the lower part of the the Sierras that define the old shoreline of Pleistocene Lake Russell some 600 feet deeper than the present Mono Lake.
Not until the late 80’s, driving East on Tioga Pass Road, did I actually see Mono Lake.  Upon my first glimpse I must say I had one of those “Aha“ moments resonating through each cell of my body.  All that ancient energy being held in the basin seemed to flow into my BE-ing.
I have had many such experiences since my first viewing of Mono Lake after BE-ing at MuRefuge.  Now this first view “Aha” usually happens driving over Conway Summit and stopping at the pull out for viewing Mono Lake.

In 1941, the tributaries of Mono Lake began being tapped by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which had already sucked dry Owens Lake.  By 1982 Mono Lake had dropped 45 vertical feet losing half of its volume with a doubling of the salinity.  Since the lake is on a major flyway for millions of migratory birds, as well as the major nesting sight for the California Gull, the health of the lake and its inhabitants of brine shrimp and shoreline alkali flies are crucial food sources.
The birds and animals, trees
and grasses, rocks,
water and wind are our allies.
They waken our senses,
rouse our passions,
renew our spirits and
fill us with vision, courage, and joy.
David Gaines
Mono Lake Committee Founder

The Mono Lake Committee founders conducted the first ecological study of Mono Lake in 1976 and two years later this nonprofit citizens’ group was founded.  This grassroots organization is “dedicated to protecting and restoring the Mono Basin ecosystem, educating the public about Mono Lake and the impacts on the environment of excessive water use, and promoting cooperative solutions that protect Mono Lake and meet real water needs without transferring environmental problems to other areas.”

The Committee has worked with focused intent to protect Mono Lake from excessive water diversions to Los Angeles. Their efforts of litigation, legislation, cooperation, education and most importantly, public support have been successful thus far. 

These next three photographs are of posters in the bathroom at the Mono Lake Committee Store in Lee Vining educating all who use the facilities . . . examples of "education":

I am humbled to be a tiny part of this ever vigilant group of dedicated BE-ings.  Their efforts to reeducate the inhabitants of the Los Angeles Basin has been nothing short of miraculous!  The city of Los Angeles has gone from one of the most water guzzling cities of the United States to one of the most conservation minded.  
Southern California children come North each Summer to experience the wonders of the Mono Lake Basin and often to work on the many restoration projects.  These efforts are evident on the Lee Vining Creek walk from the South side of Lee Vining to the Mono Basin Visitor’s Center.  Hiking along this trail now it is hard to imagine that a few years ago hundreds of discarded tires littered the creek bed.

A must see is Mono Lake from the Boardwalk at the Mono County Park, land leased from the Los Angeles Water Board where you see signs saying so.  We have spent many enjoyable afternoons in the park basking in sun after a picnic.  It was one of Star’s very favorite places!  And at all times of the year we have met visitors from Germany, Japan, France enjoying their picnics, too.
Just before Leigh and Steven were forced to depart early from our marriage celebration because of a predicted snow storm the following day, we all piled into automobiles with our jackets, hats, scarves, mittens/gloves, boots.  After a hike along the West side of Mono Lake and on our way back to Bridgeport, we stopped.  Here are some pictures:

MONO LAKE from Test Station Road
One of our favorite hikes is along the West side of Mono Lake accessed by turning left off Highway 395 at the Test Station Road turnoff, just past the Lee Vining Airport.  (Yes! Lee Vining has an airport as does Bridgeport!)  As the road goes downhill a Y occurs.  Turn left and very soon you will be on a gravel road.  From the Y it is about 2.5 miles to the road’s end at Lee Vining Creek.  Walking along this deserted road any time of the year offers spectacular views in all directions.  We’ve seen the full moon rise, awesome light shows (similar to the aurora borealis further North), lenticular clouds forming before our very eyes, glassy water to white caps on Mono Lake, and sky blue to mossy green color diversity.   
Here are some pictures taken over the course of 10 days or so on our most recent sojourn to the Eastern Sierras:

MONO LAKE from Lundy Canyon Road
Another of our favorite hikes is along the South exposure of Lundy Canyon.  The road runs up the canyon with the creek flowing along the North exposure.  A manmade water catchment system has been constructed along the South exposure so there is a very rudimentary road right out to the tip where there is a fabulous view of Mono Lake.
After all the family and friends departed, one afternoon Dwight, Rose and I took this walk.  Here are some pictures:

I am reading An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days by Susan Wittig  Albert.  Among today’s notes appears a quote by Charles Darwin: 
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, 
nor the most intelligent that survives.  
It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”  
Perhaps taking a few moments to reflect upon this would be instructive? 
Comments are appreciated particularly in regards to the state of our precious water.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Cathie! Great photos. It enjoyed reading this post... it is heavy and serious and yet hopeful and full of your resilient and thoughtful spirit. Thank you for all you do!
    PS love the Darwin quote... so true.