I am a child of the desert west, yet I am also a son of the ocean beaches. The sea was always the greatest water in my life, in my world, in my vision.
Rivers were only small streams, which sometimes flooded, and often dried out completely into sand or cracked mud. Even the great Sacramento river, of the north, which was the most powerful river I knew as a child, well, even that paled in comparison with the greater bay, the golden gate, the San Francisco bay, beside whose eastern shore I was conceived and born, and then lived a year and four months before I was carried away to the south, to the silver gate, to pass my childhood beside the dry Mexican frontier, at San Diego.
Every year, however, sometimes twice, I returned to my grandmother’s house in that land where I was born, and I touched the saline waters of San Francisco bay. It was always like coming home to a home that I had lost, long ago, and it reconfirmed in my heart and mind the truth that salt water is the greatest water on this earth, this planet, this world of life.
For me, let me repeat again, the greatest waters were always salt, the brackish salt waters of California estuaries, harbors, bays, and ocean. Only when I was a young man, years later, would I truly come to know, and begin to understand, the power of fresh water, sweet natural clean water, flowing across the earth, free from salt and almost ready to drink… or at least, once upon a time it was ready to drink, long ago, in the rivers of the east and the midwest, before civilized industrial man polluted it and contaminated it and poisoned it with our industrious power and might.
But in spite of that damage, the great streams are still alive, those rivers whose names were once only words in my history books, the Hudson, Delaware, Shenandoah, Potomac, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and a hundred, a thousand others. They still flow, and flood, although we cannot drink freely from them without bombarding them with chlorine gas and filtering and refiltering the shit from their streams of festering, pestilent life, yes, but they still flow, they still run through the living world, they still flood, and they still carve their twisting path across the face of this land we call America.
One of those rivers, the “Mighty Mo” – as it is known with love and fear – figures mightily in my journey to witness the total eclipse of the sun.
For several reasons, I have chosen a city upon its lowest, southernmost shores to be the spot where I will wait for the shadow of the Moon to come racing across the Earth toward me.
Even if all my plans of mice and men may gang agley and fall apart to leave me stranded dead without a whit of travel, it is enow for me that I can imagine it now and set down in these daydreaming words.