On the third day of blistering hot sun, Maribel, our gardener, reported some flowers beginning to wilt and our long beans shriveling up. My wife was one of the "wait for someone else to dig" faction, but I knew that I would never hear the end of it if her Zinnias turned to dust. Urgent action was necessary.
I recruited Maribel and Gaby, a guy who works for one of the neighbors, to join me in liberating the water. Armed with shovels and a bicycle basket (to scoop out rotten leaves), we cycled a narrow path up into the mountains behind the village, past abandoned banana plantations, beyond a derelict house and a couple isolated homes, into an overgrown meadow. From there we hiked the last distance up a muddy footpath through dripping, tangly forest. I was worried about snakes, until suddenly I felt my entire head wrapped in gauze. I'd walked straight into the web of a giant tree spider. Shrieking and dancing around to make sure the spider--larger than an outstretched hand--wasn't on me, I scraped what I could off my face.
A few meters later another tree spider web, two meters high and at least a meter wide, blocked the path, with the red and black owner doing sentry duty in the center. A few swipes with a shovel ripped a hole large enough for us to pass through.
|Gaby and Maribel dig in|
As we cleared out rough sand, pebbles, fist-sized rocks, and a few golf balls (the Discovery Bay golf course is way on top of the ridge), the water got deeper and as a result, shoveling ten or twelve pounds at a time up to and over the surface became an increasing strain. Yet it was strangely difficult to stop.
After fifteen minutes we uncovered the intake filter, a stainless steel box with holes like a pasta strainer. I suggested we just do another five minutes to clear more space around it and then quit. Twenty minutes later the three of us were still digging, digging, digging, no one saying a word, each entranced by the rhythmic motion. Dig, lift, toss. Dig, lift, toss.
I said, okay, no need to clear out the whole reservoir. Let's go in five minutes.
Another twenty minutes or so passed. Dig, lift, toss. Dig, lift, toss.
Finally I realized that the amount of sand and rocks per shovel load had decreased to the point of diminshing returns. We had reached bottom rock in most parts. I said, "Really, let's go now." The others nodded and agreed. Oh, just a couple more shovel loads, I thought. Dig, lift, toss. Dig, lift, toss. I was nearly neck-deep in my end of the pool.
The others climbed out. I got in two more shovels full before forcing myself up. Then the soreness hit me. Back, shoulders, biceps and triceps bulged like like He-Man, the Hulk and Captain America combined. I felt rather macho, posing in my clingy wet shirt. All for the sake of some pretty peonies.
I spat out bits of spiderweb all the way home.