Where the hell is our rain? Is anyone else as upset about this as I am? I scour the internet daily looking for answers as to why we are so cracked and dry on the California Coast. They say there is a high-pressure system, like an invisible mountain range, sitting off the California and Oregon Coastline. It wont let the storm clouds through to the land. So they go around, but miss us entirely. The high- pressure system is staying put, has been here for a year now, and it wont budge.
I’ve never liked dry climates. Having lived in LA until the age of fourteen, I always hated the year round heat. Those hot dry afternoons and the endless days of dirty smog filled skies. It always felt wrong that I lived there, like people weren’t supposed to live in sprawling blazing hot wastelands. At least, not people like me. The only relief was the Pacific Ocean where I spent as much time as possible. As a little girl I prayed for rain constantly, not realizing how useless this was in the desert of Southern California. But moving to San Francisco I finally got more of the rain I loved, and in winters I’ve enjoyed the water rushing through the gutters each year, like small urban rivers carrying away the dirt, soaking the earth, feeding the plants, easing the sad dryness inside me. I came to look forward to the rain, anticipating the change in the weather and breathing a sigh of relief each Fall when the heat of Indian Summer would drift away, the clouds filling the sky, and the lovely rain would begin to fall on thirsty hillsides and gardens. When I moved to Marin County in my late 20’s I was thrilled to actually experience seasons, the leaves changing colors, the wet cold winters, and the gorgeous springtime when everything from the largest trees to the tiniest blades of grass came alive with vibrant color, as if there was a chorus of nature all around me singing “I’m Alive!!”
Not this year I fear. Although we have had cold, it is dry as an old bone. Every tree seems to call out in confusion in its winter grayness – “where is the rain?, where is life?”. Everything looks dead to me, but in a hopeless way, not like the dormant winter gray, but in a dried up brown that wont see a real spring. I imagine there will be no fresh green new life coming this year, and I am devastated. The hills are still as brown as they were when Summer came to its end. They look sad and confused to me, like they are waiting for a parent to come feed them who never comes home. The weather has abandoned California. The meteorologists are baffled, speculating about climate change and whether we will ever see an end to this bizarre pattern.
But I think maybe I can do something to help things along. I have been having a conversation in my head with the mountainous high pressure system that wont seem to budge from our coastline. I realized that if this conversation were to take place, I’d have to treat it like I do when I call a company about a problem with my phone bill, or insurance policy, or worse when the internet goes down – to treat the person on the other end of the line like they are a good friend. So I’m going to talk to the high pressure system like a good buddy.
Hi HPS (High Pressure System), How are you? I’d like to discuss a concern I have with you. First of all, thank you for your apparent concern for California. You seem to be doing your very best to protect us from the raging storms that are pounding much of the rest of the country this winter. You are quite powerful and seem to like it here, which must be why you have stayed for a year now. While I can understand your motives, I would also like to remind you that there are some urgent needs we have related to water that make us dependent on the very storms you have chosen to protect us from. You may not know this, but our life depends on the water we get from our winter storms. I’m not asking for anything huge here, just a break in your massive presence to allow a few storms to come our way.
Then the the high pressure system responds with: “oh, okay, no problem. I was just hanging for a while, enjoying the scenery, but I can move on”. “Wow. Thanks”, I say, “You’re a real pal”.
Another idea I have is for all of us, the hundreds of thousands of people living through this ridiculously dry winter, to start focusing on RAIN. Do your best rain dance! Meditate on flowing water in our streams and gutters! Think of times when you have sat in a cozy chair with a blanket and cup of hot tea listening to the rain outside. Think about using your windshield wipers again, and the smell of rain on the streets in the early mornings. Think about the way the moss grows on tree trunks during the wet season, and the sound of streams running down into the valleys where you live. Picture the rain in its abundant cleansing and healing of the earth. This is what we all need to do, even as we prepare for a drought. It certainly can’t hurt right? And it makes me feel better to think that if we all try our best to think this way, maybe there is still a chance for some rain this season.
In the midst of my worst anxiety, I finally did what I often do when I’m really scared about the future. I asked my good friend Stephen, who, aside from being one of the smartest people I know, is also quite psychic. I don’t ask him about small or trivial things, such as when will I earn more money or who will win an Oscar. But I do ask about the big stuff when it seems vital to our survival. I remember being terrified about the Bush administration and what was happening to this country. Stephen told me it would be a bad few years, but that a senator named Barack Obama would be our next president and would turn some things around. I asked him again when Obama ran for re-election, and he predicted things would be okay. So I asked him about the rain situation in a text. Here is our conversation:
Me – “And do you have an answer about the rain?”,
Him – “Oh, yeah, I do! But it’s not a good answer.”
Me – “Well? You have to tell me! I’m obsessing. I’m scared. It’s global warming right? California is going to dry up and we are all screwed”.
Him – “Well, it’s going to be a serious drought for a few years, but it will end. It wont stay forever. We are all just going to be taking much shorter showers”.
Me – “okay. I can deal.”
Him – “Good. Me too”.
Me – “thank you . You eased my anxiety that it wont last forever”.