By nine in the morning clouds dissipate again and bright blue arrives to tells us rain won't come, and the sun will turn up soon by ten the latest.
I arrived in this country some fifteen years ago in the midst of a large storm.
"It's the first rain we have seen in ten years!" Mom said, "There has been a terrible drought and we kept waiting and waiting for the rain to arrive."
It sounded like a good omen, that my arrival coincided with long awaited rainfall. But I reeled from disappointments setup by long anticipations of gold paved roads and bright sunny skies, courtesy of the "Dallas" videos my mother had sent for me to watch a few years prior. So greetings of gray skies and brown hills gave me nothing but a dismal view of what seemed like an over-hyped dream. The glitz of Beijing suddenly seemed brighter, veiled in that unobtainable shimmer.
Palm branches sway and nod outside of my second story window, I imagine the sound of their leaves rustling, the sound of an approaching storm. Friends send me links to photos that show the extent of drought. Cracked pieces of land, disappearing forests, lakes and rivers receding to the bottom of dry, pink banks. The excess of loose dirt, hinting sand storms like those of Springs in Beijing, where desert wind riding all the way from Mongolia pelts you in the face for hours at a time.
A boy wrote to me from Beijing when I first arrived. "What is it like over there? Are you adjusting to everything? When are you coming back?"
Then he wrote in the PS: "I am sure you are not coming back. You are settling down over there with your mom and later with your American husband."
I was a teen then. The notion of a husband still scary and remote. But I felt the pressure of eyes watching over me from that innocent letter. People back home wondered what my visit meant, how long it would last, and what changes would come of it. It hadn't occurred to me then to wonder about those things. So I had no answers for him. Anger smoldered in me however, for reasons I couldn't decipher.
Our county purchases water from its neighbor Imperial County (IC) who purchased it years ago from Colorado. I read in a New Yorker article. IC intends to use the water for irrigation of alfalfa fields, among other crops. Neither county has enough as it is so either we give up on the farmlands down south near the Mexico border or we give up something else up here.
Last Sunday I drove by patches of meticulous golf courses near the coast. Behind iron gates and pink roofed club houses, water drops glisten in the sun as central sprinklers shake their heads to an unhurried beat, sending sprays out onto the course. There must be a secret code for water usage here.
Ocean rumbles next to me, slashing rocky beaches with a power and conviction that make me look twice. When high tides hit the coast, several hills of red sand, mud and black rocks have collapsed. Overtime, they have become part of the ocean, turning into sand that never dried.
I feel like a child sitting among birthday cakes begging for candy.
My first July here passed in glooms and mists. Ma reminded me persistently, "This is not common. Everyone call this city the 'Finest City of America'. It is always sunny here."
But the gloom suited me. It gave me an excuse to stare out the window and not explain my expressionless face. There hadn't been any oppressive heat or humidity, just a persistent cool overcast. The temperature so close to that of my body's it felt like living in an void, with unobtrusive surroundings of low hills and soft gray roads and cookie like community buildings and me. All seem to be gently melting into nothingness. I reached out and touched my arm to make sure it wasn't an illusion.
Then I sighed, not that I could see my breath forming as white puffs before my eyes. Those things belonged to another city, another time, another world.
Our own sprinklers outside my window wake me from my dreams last night. Tuh, tuh, tuh, that confident and fearless rhythm, full of innocence, hope and trust. Rain will come. All will be well. Life carries on.
After lunch I spot a gardener in blue overalls sleeping by his truck next to the giant palm tree, his blue cap shielding his face from the sun, legs stretched out under the hood of the car, back cushioned by leafy cuttings spread over the curb. Green branches and leaves trimmed in only occasional brown edges pave our walk ways and surround his serene silhouette.
A living, breathing impressionist painting in my day.
My camera misses me, like a parched river missing its source.