Some of the rivers are flowing! For those of you (lucky sods) who live in temperate climates where rain actually falls between May and October, the notion of rivers actually flowing may seem a no-brainer. I feel a need to celebrate.
When we drove to school yesterday, Sophia craned her neck over the bridge after Achelia: “Holy Shakira, Mum! There's water down there!” I had seen some muddy puddles for the last few days, but yesterday, I saw more than puddles: water was actually flowing, running, making a rushing noise, cutting channels through the weeds, building up behind the low weir just downstream and crashing over it!
Does it do that every winter? Perhaps, though I don't seem to remember nearly so much last year.
After finishing the school run this morning I decided to go and look at the dam. The last time I saw it was August, and the lack of water was so scary that I haven't been back. I feel about the water crisis the way I feel about the economy and the Wars: I will do what I can do in my small way, within my circle, to keep the family going and help whom I can, but I refuse to look at the big picture and get all freaked out and depressed about it.
Best Beloved has been to the dam a few times – he walks with his father at the weekend – and is always telling me that I worry too much. “This is Cyprus, Manamou. It's dry for five years and the foreigners whinge, then the rains come and everything's fine again...” He's deaf to my insisting that there is more pressure on slender resources now, compared to when he was young: “It's a political problem, not a resource problem. When water is priced to reflect its scarcity, people won't squander it, and as long as the government is drilling boreholes and diverting our village's water for the HaPotami golf course, I refuse go short.”
Instead of taking the turn for our village, I took the earlier turn-off, and drove up to the top of the Asprokremnos Dam. I was not the only one. In the five minutes that I was there, two other cars arrived, their occupants getting out to lean their elbows on the concrete wall and gaze out over the water. Not good... yet. But I see the level creeping slowly upward through the striations on the rock that have marked previous levels toward the abandoned Turkish-Cypriot village of Finikas.
But the ghosts of citrus groves haunt the edges of the dam. They have been without irrigation water for two summers now, and where once mandarins, mandoras, lemons, and grapefruits shone between glossy greenery, grey, leafless limbs and twigs branch from withered trunks. All dead.
Six or seven years ago the dam overflowed. Such largesse is unimaginable today and the level at the moment is still about thirty metres below that point. But at least the scary promontories that were pushing further and further out toward the middle of the lake are covered. The new beaches that appeared as the waters fell have gone, and water birds are returning.
High on the natural bounty, and with cheeks tingling from the snow-bitten wind blowing from Troodos, I decided to see if the Dhiarizos, the biggest river in our part of the country, was flowing.
I had to go from Kouklia, so I turned off the main road and drove through the village, thrilled at the clarity of the morning light, the drifting blossoms, the way washing on the lines seemed to snap with glee. I passed the school, then paused on the top of the escarpment overlooking the valley.
I don't often stop, look around me, and appreciate what I have. Familiarity, as the old saying goes, breeds contempt. But this morning I looked out over the valley: the almonds and the figs the olives and the citrus – still irrigated here, as the water comes from an underground source, not the dam.
The cement road hugs the slope, passing a few turnings to orchards, a dilapidated hut or two. Then it crosses the river on a raised ford. My wheels didn't get wet – this channel is still not running, but when I reached the middle of the river bed, where cement conduits carry the road above the stones, I saw that there is some water. Most of it is still subterranean, but the fact that I can see it at all means that the river and the aquifer in the valley between here and the sea is filling.
When Phil, Best Beloved's father, was a boy, the river flowed on the surface all year round, with at least one pool deep enough for swimming – even during the summer. In wintertime the route between Nikokleia and Kouklia was impassable: the river filled its bed, uprooting trees as it rushed seaward after particularly heavy storms. But about fifteen years ago, when the second phase of the Southern Conveyer Project was begun, the river disappeared during the summer – diverted to the drier east – and in the winter and spring we get a downsized version. I don't think I've ever seen it really race.
As I turned for home, a few drops of rain splashed on the windshield. No field work today. That's fine. Let the rain come. I have three trays of lettuce to plant and lots of seeds that need starting. But I'm not about to pray for sunny weather so that I can roll my sleeves up and get started. There is plenty of sunny weather yet to come.