It just might rain here in Los Angeles! It’s been raining in Northern California, and we’ve been warned not to get too excited, it probably won’t make any significant difference in drought conditions, but it’s still a nice change. It cleans the air and we’re appreciative of any moisture.
Last week we sat outdoors enjoying a light mist, willing to get wet simply for the pleasure of remembering what it feels like. I captured a tweet from someone a few miles north of us musing, “What is this strange liquid falling from the sky?”
Available water and current drought conditions are a concern to every Californian. The constant broadcasts warning us of dire “we are running out of water” conditions is more than a little unsettling.
Which brings me to one of my favorite pastimes. What will an official drought mean for my garden? Should I reconsider planting a summer vegetable garden? Tomatoes take water!
“A Naturalist at Play in Coastal California and Beyond,” is nearly 500 pages of collected anecdotes and literary sketches from naturalist Vernon Hunan. I’ve had this book for a while, but have only recently started reading it.
Hunan shares, in simple terms, years of personal observations of the natural world in and around his home in coastal Central California.
Ten years ago he wrote, “You know how people are about weather–it is a continual crisis. There is always too much rain or not enough, a heat wave or a cold wave, too much or not enough wind, snow, or fog, frosts too early and snows too late, floods or dangerously dry fire conditions. As a boy, I found this attitude repellent and resolved to simply accept weather unless there was good cause not to.”
About drought conditions he says, “We probably can’t prevent or stop them, but accumulated information will have us better prepared for the next one. And rest assured that another one will come.”
California, and much of the western United States, is a desert, last time I checked, but it’s amazing to me how many people don’t seem to understand what that means. California received less rain in 2013 than in any year since it became a state in 1850; however, scientists studying tree stumps have stated that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years.
The longest droughts of the 20th century occurred from 1987 to 1992, and 1926 to 1934. Ancient droughts, however, documented through tree science, are frighteningly long: 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320.
A 200-year drought would get our attention.
I recall watering my garden with gray water in the ’80s. I really don’t want to do that again.
I do agree with Vernan Hunan, however. Wringing hands and worrying about whether or not we’ll have rain is of little consequence. What we do while we experience drought conditions, although individual to each person’s concept of sacrifice, is what we can think about.
Hunan’s contemporary writings and observations are very well documented and follow in the tradition of Thoreau, who believed a natural historian must remain near one precise location. By that definition, we can all document what we see and experience à la Thoreau!
On a recent visit to the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens I simply stared at Henry David Thoreau’s writings.
An autograph manuscript of “Walden; or Life in the Woods” is exciting to me, even under glass…
…as were Emerson’s handwritten notes for a eulogy following Thoreau’s death in 1862. These are on permanent display at the Huntington and I visit them almost every time I go. Can I really receive inspiration through a glass display case? I think so.
We have green lawn and succulents and cacti. We have both a water garden and a rock garden. Where do we go from here? I’m not sure, but I’m observing and taking notes. I guess that means I’m keeping a garden journal.
Do you think one hundred years from now any one will want to read mine? Maybe our blogs are our on-line record for the future.
Next time we are together we’ll talk a little bit about this interesting drought tolerant palm. Or is it a palm?
And if you promise to pay attention, I’ll share a little bit about my favorite naturalist, John Muir. Here’s a sneak peek.
I’ll share with you about John Muir’s Pasadena connection–practically in my back yard. I get excited just thinking about John Muir as a neighbor.
But despite those beautiful moisture-heavy clouds I shared with you earlier, no rain yet. I suppose I’d better keep practicing my dance moves, huh?