Drought is a Zen Teacher: Rain and Climate
Sometimes when it starts raining, it just keeps going. So it seems now! In the last week and a half, we have had over eight inches of rain. Now the projection is a another six to eight inches by the end of this week. A growing cloud cover hovers over us, an indication that this is real! But it is also warm, not the usual frosty temperatures of December, and the oddness is one to notice and to heed.
Yes, it is almost certain that the irrigation ponds will fill and probably by Saturday. So far there has been some runoff, but mostly the water has sunk in, giving the valley oaks in the oak savanna here on the ridge a deep watering. Everything has greened up. Thank goodness we got the garlic and fava beans planted! Soon we will see their tiny green sprouts push through the earth. There will almost certainly be mudslides and sink holes opening this week throughout northern and central California, the news people jumping on the tragedies, but, honestly, this may be the new normal: drought, then flooding.
The news is that the drought is not over. The drought is something much broader and more serious, a zen teacher whacking us into wakefulness: Pay attention! Yes, it rained. Yes, it will flood. But watch how you interact with the streams, the runoff of the mountain, watch what you plow and what you do not, what you plant and what you do not. Watch what forests you clear cut in the name of expansion, because you are only one small part of an intricately connected web of life.
In a talk at the Future First Conference last month in Minnesota, Mary Pipher characterized our relationship with nature as one of a disordered relationship with the web of life. The severe drought in California reminds us of this disorder. We have built cities in desserts without adequate water supplies and supplied them by harming healthy ecosystems in other parts of our state; we have used fossil fuels to the extent that we have changed the climate of our earth, which is warming alarmingly quickly. We pretend it can go on this way, or we think there is nothing to do, so we do nothing. Yes, it rains, and our gratitude for the moisture, for the ponds which fill, for the dampness of the Winter Solstice is palpable. But I also feel chastised by the warm December temperatures and make my promise: I will not ignore the critical importance of putting the larger good of our earth above any individual, economic agenda.