Every day, as the sun reaches the last segment of western sky, the Pacific Ocean sends its moist breath in an airborne tide across the dry hills. All night, the fog pools, a milky aerial sea that settles over pastures, marshes, roadside eucalyptus, and the lines of willows along the estero, so that the first light on this land is always pearl. The presence of so much water in the air brings sounds closer. On the mountain where I was born, Caribbean clouds sank down to nest on the green summits, and you could hear the clank of a bucket on the next mountain as if it were a few feet away. Here, the landscape is a pale gold, and the fog is full of mourning doves and the distant lowing of cattle.
My brother wrote that he came from the biggest body of water on earth, the sky. I came from the rain. I am a child of torrential downpours and I grew like the little ferns, unfurling in the presence of water, or the purple day lilies that spring open to meet each rainfall, revealing cups full of golden pollen. The high place where we slept and woke held seven rain fed springs, manantiales, whose water ran downhill, along the folds of the land, creeks that became streams and then rivers, and finally found their way to the sea. Like the water of those springs, I’ve traveled far from my source. Only rarely am I able to return, to stand on a high ridge with clouds blowing around me, to smell fern and yagrumo, and listen to coquís, the tiny, uniquely Puerto Rican tree frogs whom the Taino believed were lost children, calling for their mothers and summoning rain. But the taste of that water, the taste of wild guavas, the taste of that air, full of lichen stained pomarrosa trunks and the earthy scent of banana leaves, lives under my tongue.
The mornings here smell entirely different, of ripe grass and fruit laden blackberry vines, the mousy dankness of hemlock pollen, and slow estuary water. But just as every molecule of oxygen we breathe has traveled in and out of billions of lungs, linking everything that inhales, the droplets of water suspended over the rich coastal homeland of the Miwok have been around the world, and at least some of them have gathered in the innermost cups of bromeliads, high in the branches of Indiera trees, dripped from wild ginger buds into the red clay of my home, made their way around glistening green serpentine, and filtered down into those springs, only to bubble up and flow away into the one great sea that girdles the earth, and they are hovering here, all around me, brushing my face, and the dry, yellow slopes where black cattle graze.
By ten o’ clock the fog will thin and tear into rags of cloud, revealing a sky made blue by reflected ocean. The suspended water will turn to transparent vapor, and turkey vultures will once more trace their slow circles in the sunny air overhead. And I will go on into my day, shaded by the great trees of the cordillera, the taste of those mountain springs trickling through me, staining my words with rainwater in this rainless land.
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