A Flood of Bureaucracy (1)

The heart bleeds at times, considering the amount of effort taken up in the daily life of bureaucratic nonsense. Take my driveway, for example.

I live at the end of a very long road on top of a tall hill. One of the neighbors rents out her property to one farmer or another, who usually grow cane berries such as raspberries or the local delicacy Olallieberries (like a blackberry on steroids.) These berries, for those of you unversed in the horticultural arts, are planted bare root, which means that little dry sticks are jabbed into the ground in early spring (which in northern California is really the same as winter.) Unfortunately, two years ago the guy decided to take advantage of a dry spell in early December to disk the land. The property, as I said, is on a hill. The hill is made of decomposed sandstone, ie, sand. January is our rainy season. And California gets ferocious rain.

Half the hillside ended up on the road and across the orchard of the valley bottom’e2’80’94you could see it, a great peninsula of sand stretching out its fingers among the apple trees. It clogged the culvert leading down to the creek; a foot of sandy water roared across the main road; one faint-hearted woman, hesitant to commit her car to what looked like a small river, drove clear to the top of the hill trying to work her way around it; road crews came out here at two in the morning in a futile attempt to clear the culvert, ending with just putting up a couple of warning flashers and going home again. It was, in short a mess.

The field has stood fallow since then, with a few spindly weeds giving clear evidence that there ain’e2’80’99t no topsoil here, friend. You can still see the remains of the five- and six-foot deep trenches the rain carved into the sand. We were lucky not to lose the driveway.

So last spring I decide that, since all the vegetation down there is gone, I probably should do something to keep the nearest sand from washing onto the road. I set up half a dozen flats full of the various tough varieties of succulent that I’e2’80’99ve got planted around the house, and in October, my blessed brother-in-law laboriously created a couple of very attractive terraces and laid the succulents and other plants in there.

I was so pleased, partly because the timing meant that we’e2’80’99d get the things rooted and growing before the dry season began, which meant I wouldn’e2’80’99t have to schlep water down the hill to keep them alive.

And then in January, just as the plants were getting themselves established, I went out for groceries one bright morning and found nothing there but a twenty by twenty foot patch of bootprints, rake marks, and sand.

Sand just waiting for the next rain to come and wash it onto the road.

(To be continued.)

Posted in


  1. sinda on March 24, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    The horror! The suspense!

  2. WDI on March 25, 2005 at 1:29 am

    I have a baaaaaad feeling about this!

  3. Anonymous on March 25, 2005 at 1:56 am

    OMG! How awful, just awful. I would have thought that your neighbor would have been glad of your help in stabilizing her property. That lovely terraced planting was on her land, right? And she tore it all out? Or is there something that I’m not getting here? Is it the right-of-way? Or on your property?

    Hmm…I guess I’ll have to deal with the suspense until you reveal part II, eh? ;-D

  4. S. on March 26, 2005 at 3:46 am

    Laurie… I just recently discovered your books. I was looking up website’s on Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club to find other books that people with similar tastes as me enjoyed, and I found a few of your books listed. So I went to my local Barnes and Noble, picked up The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and am thoroughly hooked! You’re excellent. As a fledgling mystery writer myself, I really enjoy your books. I hope you don’t mind, but I recently started my own blog, and decided to post links to your website and to your blog. If that’s not okay, then don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog and I’ll take them off.

    I know this isn’t the best place to leave a note, and you might not even check the comments very often, but I just had to let you know how much I’m enjoying your works. Maybe one day I’ll be honored enough to have one of my own books put on a shelf near a Laurie King display. Ah, I can dream!

    Thanks for your patience, and for your great books!


  5. HiiFii Webservices on December 21, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    I wanted to show you some superb resourses on the net.
    Learn to earn 90000$/Month
    For which you may also see my Personal Website
    and for a Personal Education Career Tools
    free Study Database.
    This site is for seeing the
    Hifi Electronics.
    And this is for
    World Class Gadgets

Leave a Comment