22 January 2009

Sky-water

Ohmygosh, we may get snow this weekend!

That’s right – after more than two weeks of bland, warmish, sunny weather up here in the Sierras, a “cold low pressure area will drop down over the region this weekend … and could bring good snowfall to the mountains Saturday and Sunday.” That’s according to my old friend the National Weather Service. The snow, they’re saying, could fall as low as 2,500 feet. Heheheh… that’s me.

And it’s raining right now. It started late yesterday afternoon, while I was outside sweeping dead leaves and pine needles off the little patio out back. The rainfall was very light – hardly more than a mist – but taken along with the welcome gray sky, it was a tonic to my parched soul.

Last night was the first time I’ve built a fire in the woodstove in a long time. It just hasn’t been cold enough. Sure, the temp drops considerably overnight, but a woodstove fire is a thing of nature. Once it gets going, it’s not like you can just turn it off. So if I built a fire first thing, early in the morning as is my winter habit (the second thing I do in my somnambulistic morning ramble after feeding the dog, who insists on being my first priority, without fail), we’re sweating and ripping off clothes by mid-morning because outside, it’s a balmy 60 degrees, the birdies are tweeting and the bees are roaming the camellia bush, which is the only thing blooming right now. From that point on, I can’t wait for the fire to die. I throw open windows and bitch about the weather. It’s just plain too warm for January.

But right now, this morning, the fire is blazing, there’s a good, soaking rain falling (and has been all night – I woke several times to the soft drum of it on the roof) and, while it’s not very cold, it’s damp and chilly enough to make the fire welcome and, did I tell you? It just might snow this weekend.

My delight in this is far more important than my own, selfish and admittedly strange obsession with the necessity of Winter Weather in the Winter and my own creature comforts. California has been drying out for about three years now, with each successive winter just as dry or dryer than the one before. The state is literally panting for water. For people who love the sunshine and hate gray skies, it’s paradise. For the rest of us, not so much.

The fact is that most of California is naturally very dry, even in normal, wet years. We humans, however, have altered the land so much that it needs far more water than it would naturally get, and if we don’t get normal rainy seasons, and snow up here in the Sierra, our water supply is threatened and the state suffers. Spring and summer, with their higher temperatures and lack of anything resembling rain are tinderbox seasons anyway. Wildfires start easily. Now, add a prolonged drought to the mix and the whole state is poised to become one mass firestorm.

So we who live here depend on our short, wet winters, even if we bitch about them, spoiled children that we are. But If the winter isn’t wet, we’re in real trouble.

I hope this change in the weather stays for a while, like through April. I hope it rains and rains and rains in the valleys and snows like hell up here in the mountains. And then, when the weather inevitably changes and warms with the angle of the sun, all that snow will melt and fill the reservoirs all over the state to overflowing. Summer will bring fires because summer always does. But there will be plenty of water with which to fight those fires that threaten communities, and plenty of drinking and irrigation water for us here in the north part of the state and our thirsty, desert-transformed-to-parkland neighbors down south.

Even without global warming, California goes through occasional droughts. It’s just the way of things. But I hope, with this refreshing, cleansing rain I’m watching out my window right now, that this particular drought is over.

The Voice of the Rain

And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and
yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)

--Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

5 comments:

Bill Stankus said...

Two words: Puget Sound.

Wren said...

Your two-word comment just gave me the biggest smile. Seriously, my goal is now to move back up there. It will have to wait until the real estate market is back to something resembling normal, and the economy has recovered somewhat, but I figure that just gives me some time to make plans. After living here in California again for 16 years and counting, I literally dream of the Pacific Northwest and its mild, rainy weather and glorious green-ness. So. It's a goal. I've written it down. And it will happen.

Bill Stankus said...

At this moment it's 31 degrees. The ground is frost covered - crunchy.

The overall business of weather here is change - there''s little consistancy. A sunny day followed by clouds then rain... maybe some wind and then it's sunny again. Several days ago we had below freezing temps and fog. Cold fog, not Valley fog. Then the fog was gone and, as I said, it's now frosty.

The prediction is for snow later this week. We'll see ... because around here, ya never know. Just last week the temp was 55 degrees.

Why the variance? We get weather off the Pacific, either from the North (and Arctic stuff) or from the south Pacific - warm Hawaiian winds. The inland waters of Puget Sound is an influence and so are the Cascades to the East and the Olympics to the west.

I don't think we are overly obsessed with weather - but it certainly impacts many things.

Larry Jones said...

Thanks for not being bitter about the fact that we in SoCal leech all your water every year. By the way, please make some more, as our lawns are getting brown.

robin andrea said...

Thanks for reminding me that California is naturally dry. I keep thinking I'm watching the desertification of the state. It's pretty scary. Of course reading that the west is losing trees faster than ever, adds to my concern. Still, after spending four years in the beautiful, lush, green and wet northwest, I came back to California for the southern light and sun. I wish I could have endured the gray on the Olympic Peninsula, but it was too depressing for a genetically-programmed, brown-skinned desert girl like me.