C. Coimbra photo
Saturday was as tough to chew on as a chunk of dried leather. The garden soil baked under the hot sun as if it were a summer day, and as if I had tomatoes and peppers begging for the heat. The challenge was, it was mid-February and I had yet to put away my summer clothes. A never-worn periwinkle cotton sweater hangs in my closet like its only purpose is to add a spark of color among the my predominately neutral colored clothes. The periwinkle sweater and I wait for winter.
My frozen friends on the other coast would gleefully trade places with me after a relentless winter attack that has dumped so much snow that there is no place to put the white stuff scraped from roadways and roofs. Still, my heated sense of humor lurked near toilet humor. And believe me, my toilet humor isn’t that darned funny. No longer do I jest that I still must use no more than a minute’s worth of shower water that I must capture into buckets so that I can occasionally flush the toilet. California’s drought grows as much dust as does the East Coast snow grow ice-mountains. (A possible replacement for melting icebergs??)
And our federal law makers finally acknowledged that there is something not quite right with our weather. Er, hum, these mostly men and a few women agreed that the planet is “changing.” Now, that agreement comes only as a twisted compromise that might allow a cross-country pipeline to transport toxic oil from Canada destined for a country outside of the United States. This alleged logic fails me as I turn increasingly weary of straddling water-capturing buckets so that I can luxuriate beneath a one-minute shower.
“This is like living in a third-world country with high-end tax bills!” I screamed while scrubbing the bathroom with the captured water, which was not going to leave enough water to flush the toilet later on. I took a break. When I looked at my garden, the artichoke plants drooped like my sullen mood. They needed water. Thank goodness we captured some rainwater from the roof into a 300-gallon tank that sits in the driveway. It’s the new drought fashion accessory. Actually, it is the least impactful way I can assure my lawn-free, ocean-friendly, drought-ready garden can support a lemon tree, a small veggie patch, grape and berry vines interspersed with a few roses, and now, milkweed for a depleted Monarch butterfly population.
So much snow keeps falling in the East that I worry my friend’s son and his fiancé will never dig their way out of Boston for their May wedding on a beach near my home.
I fear that my generation is the last one to have savored the best of seasons past.
Weather troubles circle the globe like the satellites that track weather. Future forecasts remain dire.
Do we, as a society, take desperate measures to keep our lifestyles on par with the past? Or do we, individually, take responsibility to lessen our personal impact on the planet?
In the moment, there’s not much any single person can do to make the snow and below-freezing temperatures cease impacting places like Massachusetts. And I can’t make the rain fall here in California.
When I visited the desert a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but cringe at the endless fountains, ponds, and decorative waterfalls gracing gated communities. Who can blame landscapers and the desert populace for trying to recreate the magic of an oasis? It’s romantic. But at what cost? Are these smart choices?
How is it that decorative water features proliferate when there are communities throughout the west with wells as dry as an African desert, forcing the population to truck in bottled drinking water, and portable showers for personal cleanliness?
My community is not as desperate as others. We are allotted about 25 gallons of water per day per person. So when you come stay at my house, I will explain that we don’t let water run willy-nilly at any spigot for anything including brushing our teeth and cleaning dishes.
“How do you keep your clothes clean?” guests ask.
Me: Barely. Short cleaning cycles in a water-saving washing machine stuffed to the top with laundry.
The weather’s cooled a bit since Saturday. Rain, well if you consider .01” of moisture rain, is in the forecast. Plants think spring is here and want more water. I’ll begin placing buckets and bowls in every sink in the house again, and reuse that captured water for potted tomatoes on the deck.
As I write, a national weather reporter just said, “The West is spectacular!” as he pointed to our premature spring temperatures and the Sierra-Nevada mountain range void of much snow. Compared to the persistent and unusual sub-zero temperatures outside his broadcast studio, I’d have to agree that the West is spectacular—in an all-things-relative kind of way.
My sense is this is how it’s going to be most of what ever is left of my life. The folks in power will continue doing what they do as long as they can stay in power. The folks who believe they have a direct hotline to universal righteousness will continue inventing their translations of that hotline to meet their needs—regardless of whatever named faith barked as their defense. And the rest of us will find ways to manage abnormally hot or frozen seasons and extreme storms.
Me? I’ll admire the beautiful, but dusty bathtub that I’ll probably not fill. Those five-gallon buckets in the shower are my new bathroom accessories with the double duty of toilet-flushers. And that never worn periwinkle sweater hanging in my closet is a pleasant reminder of my hope that things will change for the better.