My mother and aunt grew up on a walnut farm in Yuba City, California. On Christmas Day 1955, their farm was destroyed in a catastrophic flood. My grandfather, Leahn Halprin, who was an art student at UC Berkeley before he inherited his father's farm, filmed the aftermath of the flood. Recently, my aunt April dug up some of her dad's old 16mm film reels and had them converted to digital files. Chuck Smith, a Sutter County official, put together the following YouTube montage:
This haunting footage is a tribute both to the land which raised my family, and to my grandfather and the artistry with which he approached the earth. I watched this in between writing papers at work, and as the chilling guitar melodies echoed throughout the empty room, I felt for a moment that I had been transported back in time. This was another generation's reality. This destruction was later repeated, twice in the 1980s, and twice in the 1990s, during El Nino. I keep wondering how my grandfather kept his hand so still, and wanting so badly for him to turn it and wave at the camera.