In 1966, the best pop song of the year reached number three on the U.K. charts and was applauded as a masterwork. Alan Freeman, a veteran British DJ of impeccable musical taste and presenter of the radio show Pick of the Pops (characteristically welcoming his audience with, "Greetings, Pop-Pickers") rated the song very highly. But in the United States, where it was recorded, it failed to make much of a dent, stalling at #88 on Billboard's top 100. The song's lackluster performance in America led its producer, who considered it his best work, to retreat from the recording studio for two years and begin a long and very public decline that continues today, 46 years later, as he languishes in the Corcoran State Prison in California, serving 19 years to life for the murder of B-movie star, Lana Clarkson.

The song, of course, was River Deep, Mountain High, by Ike and Tina Turner and its producer was Phil Spector, who is suffering through a remarkably long second act characterized by his bizarre behavior, including a predilection for gun play, and an appalling taste in wigs. His early work, however, endures (in mono).

The great song's lyrics are mawkish, but the refrain, set against a towering crescendo, recorded in Spector's characteristic 'wall of sound' mode, and potentiated by a choir of 93 female voices (into which Tina's smokey, soulful scream is stirred) has a remembered power that moves me still. But I now attach it, not as a metaphor to a love that's like a "flower loves the spring...just like Tina loves to sing", but to landscape: as a simple declarative that embraces the reach of the earth's crust - river deep, mountain high - as it flows over the territory currently demarcated as the State of California. A simple declarative rendered with all the grandeur that Spector could muster and that is, I would suggest, adequate to the task of evoking the majesty of the state's terrain.

Locally, we have the 'mountain high' reasonably covered, but it is only on rare occasions that the 'river deep' part resonates. The latter is honored more often in the breach, as it were, than the observance. I was reminded of this last week when I saw that one of the seven creeks and creeklets that I cross on my morning run, and this winter and spring one of the only two that are flowing, had mysteriously dried up.

It was Will Rogers who famously remarked that he had fallen into a California river and had to dust himself off. That remark fits with the always popular trope celebrating California's weirdness, but in Ojai it is not a particularly apposite observation. As my two out of seven indicates, the lack of water is spot on but nine times out of ten, wet or dry, you'll hit rocks as you fall (that's a statistical extrapolation from the three of four times I have actually tumbled). Running, walking or falling, the rocks, the chaparral debris and the mugwort will keep you in a continual state of inelegance as you pick your way across an Ojai creek or river. Dust tends not to be an issue, but depends, I suppose on your tolerance for sartorial blemishes: mine is set high and Will Rogers himself affected a casual western attire customarily enhanced with a little range dust.

The next day, the dried-up creek was running again, recovered from a temporary damming up-stream of unknown causation.

By Memorial Day it is usually safe to assume that we are done with the rainy season. We can now close the account on the 2011-2012 season with a low-to-middling 12.33"; 2002 and 2007, for instance, were considerably drier with totals between seven and eight inches and 2005 was the most recent 'big-wet' with close to 44". 1998 was wetter still, with an all-time record of 49". These are totals for the Upper Ojai Summit fire station where recording began in 1906. The driest year was 1924, with a little over six inches. So, we can safely establish the 100 year limits as 6 on the low side and 49 on the high with, as local farmers can attest, an infuriating inconsistency between.

Wide, shallow, riparian morphology with fast moving waters seem to work better in this semi-arid, mediterranean climate type than the deep and slow rivers of more consistently wet, temperate environments. (See Estuaries and Deltas). If one believed in geographical destiny, then a case could be made that many Southern Californians exhibit the indigenous riverine characteristics of fast, fickle and shallow, a more appropriate adaptation, I would suggest, to the twenty first century world than the antithetical characteristics of ponderous, steadfast and profound.

Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry who wrote River Deep, Mountain High in Tin Pan Alley's Brill Building, were mining a biblical vein (forged within the southern gospel tradition) in arriving at their evocative phrase - a marked lurch towards naturalism after, for instance, their run with the abstract lyricism of Da Doo Ron Ron and Do Wah Diddy Diddy earlier in the decade.

William Blake begins Jerusalem, his famous hymn, with "And did those feet in ancient times, Walk upon England's mountains green?" and goes on to ask, "...was the "holy Lamb of God On England's pleasant pastures seen.." and, "did the Countenance Divine Shine forth upon our clouded hills...?"

The short answer to all these queries is, probably not. Although the plot of Jesus - the Missing Years, has yet to be fully revealed, it is unlikely to have included a visit of the protagonist to the obscure island of Albion. Nevertheless, Blake hints at a strongly felt spiritual landscape: only its genesis was misread. It more likely originated in more ancient, pagan times when Celtic culture lay heavy o'er the grassy mantle.

Blake hopes to place Jerusalem, plucked from the Judaean desert and mythologized as a sanctuary of Peace and Love, in England's "green and pleasant land". His purpose is to provide a Christian gloss on lands inhabited by far older gods, on a spiritual landscape that owed everything to Celtic polytheism and almost nothing to the monotheism of the Middle East.

While I may imagine the phrase, "River Deep, Mountain High" as aptly describing California's sometimes green, sometimes brown land where the waters flow between the Sierra mountains and riparian gorges, Greenwich and Barry's lyrical purpose is, perhaps, to frame a deeply felt, but ultimately profane love in a spiritual landscape.

In California, as in England, the mark of the gods is on the land. The spiritual imprint is deep within the folds of the wild terrain. Our sanctuary of Peace and Love, our Jerusalem, is embedded in these deific geographies where,

"...... it grows stronger, like a river flows
And it gets bigger baby, and heaven knows..."