The rains started late Saturday night in Sonoma County, thick and heavy and wild, rattling the old wooden casement windows and sluicing down the sloped streets toward the river. By Sunday afternoon, the rivers were rising and sliding over their banks here and there, stranding some motorists and causing a few roads to be closed. I drove across town late that afternoon, rain pattering on the windshield, blooming into thick downpours, then quieting to thin mists. The Petaluma River was running high, easily visible down at the end of B Street as a wide milk-chocolate brown swale. I glimpsed it through the trees and buildings on my right as I drove north along Petaluma Boulevard. I turned on Corona road where the river had swallowed up its banks and flowed over the neighboring roads, running rogue through the slender willows and scrub trees, submerging all the brush on one side of the low bridge I was crossing and turning a meadow on the other side to a shallow, flowing lake.
As I drive, I glance to the left at the thick dark water flowing briskly around the slim tree trunks like a series of winding snakes, going wherever it wants, free of the constraints of the banks. The movement now is all sweet force and freedom, but with more rain, it promises destruction. Will it leave behind only a huge mess -- or an actual rerouting of the river path? It made me a bit queasy, the way the oily water moved so quickly under the pale, occluded light of late afternoon. It made me wonder - after this political debacle, will we have only a monster mess to clean up -- or such a significant change in our institutions that recovery itself will be in doubt?