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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reading About the San Gabriels - Tall, Steep, and Now Waterproof

Clouds Over Great Marsh Sketch
© 2009 Katherine Kean


While I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the large paintings, I'm also looking forward to getting on with some new work, such as a painting from the sketch above. I've finally seen a clear change of season with the chilly Santa Ana winds - the first ones in many years bringing no accompanying anxiety. I was amazed yesterday by fantastic dust and ash cloud that the winds kicked up. The descent into winter here includes some cold days punctuated by a day or two in the 80's, accompanied by thoughts about the impending rainy season. I've been reading John McPhee's The Control of Nature, specifically the chapter "Los Angeles Against the Mountains". McPhee's reporting style is entertaining as he lays out the hazards of living next to the "unimproved wilderness" known as the San Gabriel Mountains, among them:

1. Steep and rugged, the San Gabriels are twice as high as Mt. Washington - from base to summit 3000 feet higher than the Rockies.

2. Some of the most concentrated rainfall in the history of the US has occurred in the San Gabriel Mountains.

3. Burned chaparral releases wax like resins that coat the soil particles, creating a waterproof layer one to six centimeters down.

All of this together sets the scene for the "full scale flat-out debris flows", which McPhee reports on in his book.

There is another chapter in the book that I've yet to read, "Cooling the Lava" - I can hardly wait.

5 comments:

mariannepost said...
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mariannepost said...

Having lived in Southern California for a couple of years I can really identify with the the force of the Santa Ana winds. Your sketch captures the change in season. There is still an ominous feeling yet a tranquil promise. I look forward to seeing this as it progresses.

Dianne Poinski said...

Your description of this time of year in Southern California was right on. I could almost feel what it was like when I lived in Sunland/Tujunga 20 years ago. Not many people know about the splendor of the San Gabriel Mountains. Their beauty in the winter when the skies are clear, always brought a smile to my face. The book you are reading sounds very interesting. Might make a great gift for my husband.
Thanks for sharing!

Diane Hoeptner (hep-ner) said...

I was going to wax nostalgic about my years in Southern California, but I see I'm not the first. As the temp and the leaves drop here in Cleveland, OH: I can't help but miss L.A. crazy rain, wind, wildfires, earthquakes and all. Lovely sketch, I look forward to seeing the painting.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Marianne - the winds are something, aren't they? I think over the years I've had more wind damage, then fire, flood, or earthquake combined.

Dianne, I think someone who has lived in the foothills might really enjoy this book - especially from a safe distance.

Diane, Cleveland has it's own special weather - part of the Lake Effect, isn't it? Similar in some ways to our crazy rain.