Piece of Mind: The joys of Lake Cormaci

A pair of snowy egrets stands near the edge of the inland sea, yellow feet hidden in the mud. While one keeps his eyes on a kid whizzing past on a jet ski, the other hunts for a fish or two that might make a suitable brunch.

On the far end of this body of water, at the quietest spot and with his back brushing against the leaves of an aging camellia bush, a fisherman sits on an ivy-covered boulder. In preparation for the enjoyment of his hobby, he’s collecting some of the worms that are found there in abundance. All individuals in this tableau — except perhaps the worms — seem content.

This idyllic scene is typical of one that unfolds every time the skies open over the foothills and Lake Cormaci forms in our La Cañada front yard.

I like to think this is not an accidental benefit of owning our house, down-slope as it is from our street. Instead, I picture a developer in 1950, surveying the apricot orchard he was about to turn into a residential project and envisioning our particular lot as a wonderful opportunity to give the potential homeowners their own bit of paradise each time it rained: a gigantic lagoon.

“Imagine the wildlife it’ll draw, Henry,” our builder might have said to his partner. “Heck, whoever owns the house we build here just might be able to catch their own dinner when the rains are heavy enough.”

We have been the proud owners of this seasonal Eden for nearly a quarter of a century, although we lived at our address for about four (drought-like) years before the heavens unleashed some serious storm clouds and we caught our first glimpse of the lake.

The thoughtful seller allowed us an element of surprise. There was no mention of occasional flooding of the courtyard that spreads out from our front stoop and threatens to breech our front door. Nor were we told that a secondary basin would likely form underneath the bedroom wing of our modest manor, providing a somewhat musical squeak to our wood floors during the winter. Maybe he was merely carrying on a fine tradition. It’s quite possible, after all, that the couple who sold it to him 11 years earlier also kept the secret of the seasonal lake.

We are grateful that whoever first landscaped our yard those 60 years ago managed to engineer the driveway in such a way that the rainwater flows away from our garage door, so there’s never any flooding there. But this feat was not accomplished in the rest of the yard, hence the lake.

An electric pump, when it’s in working order, keeps the recreational users and water birds at bay during the winter. But when it’s malfunctioning — as it was yesterday, because the housing that contains it needs repairs — we resign ourselves to welcoming whatever nature brings our way.

Should our handyman find the time to make the repairs to the pump’s housing that we requested several days ago, Lake Cormaci may dry up before you arrive to catch its splendor. More’s the pity. But if it’s still there this weekend, by all means, enjoy it. We just don’t recommend you bring your swimsuit. It’s way too cold this time of year.


CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. She can be reached via e-mail at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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