Embracing May Gray and June Gloom…or maybe just accepting it

Los Angeles averages 329 days of sun per year. It’s actually quite warm and sunny most of the winter. Then sometime mid-May we shift into May Gray leading to June Gloom,  a weather phenomenon that appears this time of year in Southern California, as cyclical as spring and summer.

Most years after about two weeks of little or no sunshine I lapse into feeling like I need to hibernate. We are sunshine people and I don’t do well without consistent exposure. This is an embarrassingly hard thing to admit when I know how many of my blogging friends live for months with extremes of cold and damp, without even a spot of sun until mid-spring.

I’m not alone in my physical reaction, however.

With great interest I’ve read numerous studies linking sunshine to mood. Natural sunlight provides essential vitamin D and can protect a person from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sunlight boosts key mood boosting hormones and wards off some forms of depression.

May and June are typically the cloudiest months of the year in coastal Southern California. The clouds are formed when the  marine layer moves in late at night and the resulting damp and gloomy pattern hangs around until late afternoon, when finally the setting sun makes a brief appearance below the clouds and there may be a couple of hours of “happy” sunshine.

A fun and informative blog post on this natural phenomenon can be read HERE, but basically all that’s required is cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California current and a high pressure formation.

There are some benefits to this moisture-laden foggy weather, however. In a mega-drought cycle it is a wonderful reminder that Mother Nature knows how to make an appearance and send a little relief. We aren’t using much outside water right now. Conservation isn’t nearly the challenge it will be in a couple of months.

May and June are somewhat unique, but in July and August the fog associated with the beach areas following hot summer days can also roll in and cool further inland.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is in the Brentwood neighborhood.  On a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean, but it isn’t “at the beach” in the same sense as the Getty Malibu campus. These  photos were taken last August as friends and I visited on an afternoon and stayed into the evening.

Temperatures at my house, less than 25 miles away, had been in the 100s that day. As we strolled around the campus the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped enough that we were cold…and a little wet.

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Mother Nature knows how to cool us off and is doing her best to assist the parched environment.  So I’m doing my best to embrace the benefits of May Gray and may even be looking forward to June Gloom.

We have Hollywood Bowl tickets tomorrow night seeing Neil Diamond in concert for the first time–it’s our first time, not Neil’s. I won’t know until tomorrow if I need to plan for wet weather. No umbrellas are allowed inside the Bowl so this could be exciting.

It is a three-day weekend as we commemorate Memorial Day. Monday will be a quiet day at home, I’m anticipating, and maybe I can get caught up with some of you. I’ve not been spending much time blogging recently.

I have been very busy during the day, yes, but you see, May Gray HAS been making me want to hibernate, and my evenings have been very short! Maybe I need a sun lamp? (If you’ve just endured a long, freezing winter you have my permission to roll your eyes.)

Whatever Mother Nature delivers to your door step this weekend, I hope you have a very enjoyable one. I’ll look forward to hearing about it.

Aiming for a week in slow motion

I sometimes feel my life is perpetual motion, but once in a while I manage to slow down, and even STOP! This weekend was quietly delicious as I fully let the air out of my tires!

I had plenty of time to watch the birds.

 

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Every year about this time we have an Oriole or two stay for a few days of feeding before moving on. I’m so glad I didn’t miss his arrival.

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This little guy has been hanging around. I’ve never seen him before. Does he typically live near you?

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I caught sight of these two prospective parents pulling nesting material out of one of our lighting torches.

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The finches are frequently on the spillway, but I’ve never seen this particularly colorful hummingbird in my garden before. It’s amazing what one may observe when sitting quietly.

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Someone else was caught in the act. These little thieves are a nuisance, but they need to eat, too.

Even a couple of hours of rain! Every drop brought celebration, and the doves thought it worth celebrating with a little meal.

So how am I going to carry the slower weekend pace into the new week?

Honestly? I’m not sure. But I’m going to try. And perhaps if I feel I’m getting in the way of that peaceful intention, I’ll just have to think about one of my other favorite creatures. He takes life in stride.

You’ll definitely want to read  HERE about this patient pet-owner on the most unlikely stroll! 

I think this gentleman may just have the right idea! If I get moving too quickly this week, I’ll have to see what Darwin has to say about it.

I hope the week moves at just the right tempo, whatever that may mean to you.

And be sure to breathe lighter!

Earth Day, California. Changing the focus.

New tactic. I’m plugging my ears. I’ve reached saturation point and can’t absorb one more apocalyptic message warning Californians that water tables are dangerously low and the economy will implode, slightly before or after we turn on the taps and nothing comes out.

Droughts are synonymous with California, and although I personally believe that climate change is contributing additional havoc with strange weather patterns fueling drought conditions, our water problems, and certainly our water management issues are not new. Not new at all. I’ve written before about the California Water Wars and the issues are so old that it boggles my mind that anyone is surprised we have a problem.

So to breathe lighter while sharing an Earth Day conversation from drought-plagued California, I’m peppering the post with favorite photos of some of the places around the state that offer peace and tranquility. It hasn’t dried up yet!

Santa Ynez Valley

I am committed to conservation measures and think waste is deplorable. I also think ecological responsibility is for good times as well as under mega-drought conditions. I probably wouldn’t object to scare tactics if I thought they worked!

Lompoc, California

The late Native American activist and first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, is quoted as saying, “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.”

When is the last time you saw that principle in action?

San Clemente Beach

Traveling through the center of the state in rich agricultural areas you’ll see “Stop the Congress Created Dust Bowl.” Sometimes the messages are on a slickly produced billboard but more often they’re crudely spray painted by a farmer forced to let crops and orchards die because of water shortages. Water allotments are not equally available. Often it’s the smaller enterprises negatively affected and it’s hard to see those signs and think of families and livelihoods.  It’s also hard to see dead trees and vines.

I was in the fifth or sixth grade when we started learning facts about the Dust Bowl.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of the  worst environmental disaster in American history, and what did a child living in the middle of suburban Los Angeles understand about Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority Act, crop rotation, terracing and other beneficial farming practices?

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Nevertheless, I won an essay contest about environmental responsibility, although that would not have been the language of the mid-60’s. I had also been chosen to participate in a special program of classes at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and I was slowly introduced to an age-appropriate knowledge of the importance of creating a healthy balance between water, soil and sunlight for optimum plant health. I was learning to care about “the environment,” even though I didn’t yet know all that word encompassed.

Earth Day officially took stage as a grass-roots effort in 1970, and although school children today, much like I experienced in the 1960’s, are given cheerful and hopeful projects that imply we are all naturally committed as good stewards of the earth, reality is that one of the most polarizing dinner party hot topics is environmentalism.  I know.

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Californians will need to have many difficult, often uncomfortable conversations, but I would like to see a huge shift from finger-pointing to a concerted effort at changing the way we relate to water usage in the first place.

I’m disheartened to see particular farmers targeted as though removal of their water-thirsty crops will greatly improve the circumstances.

Almond farmers are currently taking a lot of heat as Californians learn, probably for the first time, that it takes a gallon of precious water to produce one single almond. If you want to read more on this politically complex web, THIS is a great article from Mother Jones.

 

Oak Groves

Frankly, I don’t think we need to be the almond growers for the world, but I would like an equal serving of sincere scrutiny in other areas. I don’t hear an honest challenge to the environmental costs of animal agriculture. Want to start a small war? Start with this fact: Crops, although indeed water intensive, use a fraction of the water consumed on California’s factory farms

California grows over 200 different crops, some grown nowhere else in the nation.  Your guess is as good as mine as to the future of these crops. But what I can say is that “crop demonizing,” currently very popular, isn’t going to address any of the major issues. Change will come because people see the need to adapt to our climate conditions, and significant changes in habits will be slow for those who didn’t see this coming.

I’m naturally drawn to people who do make a difference and take bold action in their own lives.

Split rock Silent Valley

We can all use a little inspiration.

This Earth Day I would like to recommend you visit a beautifully sensitive writer at “Through the Luminary Lens.” Bruce and his wife, Francis, live in an off-grid home on Vancouver Island. His topics interconnect conservation, renewable energy and social ecology with a variety of other interests he weaves in so well. I’ve included the LINK to a favorite post that seems particularly satisfying to me for Earth Day.

I’d also enjoy sharing an award-winning short documentary that shows what one family has done with their city lot. The Dervaes family lives very close to my home, and what they’ve done with 1/10th of an acre is nothing short of impressive–maybe in my mind miraculous. To learn more about their family operation, you can see “Homegrown Revolution,” HERE. 

People in action always inspire me. Many of YOU inspire me. What are your Earth Day thoughts? I’m listening.