I wrote this letter I sent to my beautiful children some years ago and thought with all the struggles the Owens Valley and now Mammoth are having with water that perhaps your readers of the Sierra Wave might enjoy reading this letter too.
I believe it would be received as heartfelt by many who love the Owens dearly and might even soothe some of the dry dusty heartaches away.
Keep up the good work,
Michael J Ahles
November 8, 2004
Dear T & K
I hope this letter finds you happy and well. We received our first rain of the season here in the high dry dessert. It brings back memories of the Owens Valley and an incredible day of running I experienced, one of many I enjoyed. I was running the McNally Canal north of Laws one summer day, saddened by DWP’s destruction of what was once surely such a beautiful place. People had decided that by taking the Owens Valley water to another valley that had no chance of receiving water naturally of its own, life somehow would be better. The end result was the creation of a new valley called San Fernando and the demise of the Owens. The reason to kill one thing so that another could live I think was simply greed. I cannot tell you the results good or bad of this new valley because perhaps only the distance, as in distance sometimes communication becomes difficult. I can tell you about what was left behind.
I had been running the canal that once brought mountain water to the base of the White Mountains; where anything because of the perfect climate could grOw. This area rests on four thousand feet of Sierra river silt brought down from high by spring run-offs over a millennium. Unfortunately what was left after the exportation of water, the life blood of the Owens was only dust. Feeling incredible compassion for all of the life that once existed there could be easily felt through the skeletal remains of what was left to decay. From huge dead tree stumps and abandoned ranches and farms, someone’s past dreams and pride and joy now lay deceased. What was left was only moon dust, what happens to river silt when all life is removed.
On this deeply emotional day of running through death I found profound, the most incredible life I have ever seen. On the edge of where silt meets mountain rock a lone wild flower stood. a flower of such magnitude that I shall have trouble describing it in words. It was small yet incredibly strong; a strength of health that could be seen and felt. It had only one flower, a single stem, and only a couple leaves. But the color was an unreal deep fluorescent red, deeper than blood. A color I had only seen once before. It was the color of a golden trout I had caught during spawning season one lucky day. The trout had a golden belly of brilliance, brighter than any jewelry, with the same red on its sides, that red of life that was in this lonely flower.
Today I think it somehow was the blood of all of life that once was, or is that too mystic. Maybe it is simpler than that. Perhaps the flower’s brilliance and power of strength is the result of surviving in a place made so uninhabitable by others. It was alone, the sole survivor of what once was, more incredible than anything that was, or perhaps all that was. I cannot do this life I describe verbal justice, but can say it was the reflection of the sun, the beauty and power of One.
Ironically the flower was surrounded by gold. The rocks it grew in were gold. How funny it is to think that greed took the water but not the gold. I am sure that flower or one even better exists today. You see through hardship comes strength, a strength and a beauty that no one can take. Perhaps you should come and see. It’s time to go running again, be happy strong and beautiful.