The chapter opens with a first person narrator’s description of the Salinas valley in Northern California. The land is beautiful and expansive, but dry. Water comes in 30-year cycles, and the dry seasons inspire despair and the wet seasons hope and joy. Houses spring up wherever there is water, and families grow their farms. The land is turned over from the Native Americans, to the Spaniards, to finally the Americans.
The entire first chapter is an account of the passage of time—the change of seasons, the cycling of the rainfall, the slow change of the landscape, and the change in population. Before we are introduced to any characters or events we are introduced to the passage of time—and the book will continue to remind us about time and change as it progresses.