Stories from California: Untidy Processes

The last in an eight-part series from multimedia documentarian jesikah maria ross about the people, land, and stories of rural California’s Cache Creek.

Conflict is healthy, but we need to deal intelligently with it and lovingly and work something out. —Eric Larsen, Geomorphologist

Ever compare your teenager to a meandering creek? Fluvial geomorphologist Eric Larsen does. And he makes a good point: natural processes—from growing up to roaring downstream—can be troublesome, untidy, and cause conflict among those who have a stake in the outcome. So how do you deal that conflict?

Along Cache Creek we have farmers, gravel miners, ecologists, tribal leaders, and recreationalists who’d answer that question in pretty different ways. I found that out making this people history’s project of the Cache Creek Nature Preserve. I also discovered that many of us love this creek and even more rely on it—for agricultural water, aggregate, habitat, basket-making materials, fishing, and scenic beauty. That shared connection gives us a good starting point for having the kind of conversations that can bridge differences.

Eric’s story, like so many others in this project, point toward learning the diverse natural and cultural histories of our home place, and sharing them with one another as a way of finding common ground. This might not be a tidy process, but it’s a worthy one.

What do you think? —jesikah maria ross

Go here to read an interview with Eric Larsen. To read and listen to other perspectives on the history of the area, visit


  1. All of life could be called untidy I suppose when you look as closely as Eric: in so many ways, life is beautiful, but it ain’t pretty.

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