a little rain must fall

January 9th, 2017

I tell people that we’ve had a little rain lately. We’ve had a little rain. December was the wettest month in Los Angeles in six years, and around here people look at the sky, and then at each other, afraid to jinx it, afraid to even whisper that the drought might be ending. What it depends on, we all know, is not the rain soaking our backyards, but the snow falling on the Sierras, because our water supply depends on the depth of the snowpack. So far the snow is looking good. And this week, with the promise of big storms piling up in the forecast, a little more rain could tip the scales.

For those folks who don’t want to face the truth, climate change like what we’ve experienced could look like it’s just a liberal bellyache. I visited Connecticut in October and spent a night in a bed and breakfast near Hartford. It was a lovely place, old and elegant, and Connecticut looked like what you’d expect after the first snowfall of the season. At breakfast the innkeeper started up a conversation about the weather, and I told her that it had been 97 degrees or so when I’d boarded the plane the day before in LA. No kidding. Last week of October. That kind of heat has been scaring the shit out of us for six years. She threw her head back and laughed, saying something like “But the drought isn’t real. Isn’t it caused by the environmentalists trying to save a fish?” And I was dumbfounded that this seemingly well-bred woman could be so willfully ill-informed, swallowing and then spreading the fake news spewed by you-know-who, ridiculing a guest at her dining room table. Serves those Californians right! I know a few people who satisfy themselves making fun like that, denying pain, denying truth, denying responsibility.

A couple of years ago I invited an arborist into the backyard to give me an assessment. I was hoping that there was some mystery to the dying trees, something other than the obvious. He told me what I already knew and then some. Trees were stressed and dead all over, and even the ones that looked alive were probably ghosts. He pointed to the three redwoods and explained that they don’t just take water from the ground, but through the air, and fifty or so years ago the air was different. There wasn’t much more to say or do, and so we stood together in prayerful silence, pallbearers in the middle of a sad forest, lifeguards in front of a dead ocean.

Sometimes when people ask me how they can be more compassionate, because they are ripping themselves apart over not being compassionate enough, I say, well, why don’t you just talk to people about the weather? What I mean by that is let’s not be strangers. Let’s be human beings. Let’s talk about something we have in common, you know, something like rain or snow or wind or heat, summer, winter, spring and fall. We all know hot; we all know cold. There didn’t used to be two ways about the weather. But I guess today there are two ways about everything, and no way in-between.

A hard rain’s gonna fall.

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  1. I saw a documentary on climate denial. Apparently a group of people (mainly in the US) are pumping tens of millions in spreading lies about climate change and trying to convince people that science is equal to and as valuable as having an opinion, even if it’s based on fairytales. Even acclaimed scientists on climate have given up on debunking the myths that these people spread. Because of that I think you can’t even really blame the woman. But I agree it is sad, and it should be unlawful to spread blatant lies. Also as a society we should value science more than we do now, but I have a personal interest in a particular scientist so that is not an objective opinion. I’m very glad it’s raining in your part of the world. (Not in the least because of your garden). Rain is hope.

    Comment by Simone — January 9, 2017 @ 6:21 am

  2. In a world where each of us would simply take responsibility for ourselves there would be no blame. Innocence, yes; ignorance, no.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 9, 2017 @ 6:57 am

  3. I find myself cheering inside for such commentery. But then I pause and wonder. Why do I find solace in such irritability. What is the point of poking a caged creature, who if let loose could really hurt me? You, me, Meryl Streep! I am like the bubble in the level, always trying to right (oops) myself. I have read a lot, watched little TV news, read even things by those I find hard to like, to balance myself. There are only 19 days in January, right! A friend counsels what Napoleon said, “Don’t interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.”

    Comment by Larry Misiak — January 9, 2017 @ 7:26 am

  4. Free is really free.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 9, 2017 @ 7:43 am

  5. Seems we can be having this conversation in Fla. as well.Thing is if it doesn’t affect you personally, why borher thinking about it.Even more so if the people in charge of the state deny such claims, we should be in great shape.Unless you have to drive your car on salt water due to coastal flooding you can count on like clockwork, continue to live in denial & all will be well.Beleive me, the signs don’t require anyone to. be an expert on the subject or. have psychic powers. Furthermore,it is not a California & Florida exclusive.The lady in Con. sh

    Comment by daisy — January 9, 2017 @ 8:50 am

  6. One of our favorite camping places is Calaveras Big Trees SP. The hard rain overmhelmed a centuries-old Sequoia, and it fell. We stood beneath that tree last summer. It feels like a metaphor for our country.

    After I read your blog post in the morning, I thought: “I despair.” Later, at Target, i stood between two older women. One commented to me how busy it was. The other agreed. I said probably everyone was running errands before the next storm tomorrow, a prediction of which one woman was unaware. Yes, we talked about the weather, and in doing so, I had my first interaction with someone outside my family today.

    It reconnected me with life. Despair. Life. All in the same day.

    Comment by Kathryn — January 9, 2017 @ 5:59 pm

  7. Can’t be separated, can it? Not two.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 9, 2017 @ 6:14 pm

  8. I can’t even begin to fathom what has happened here….what is wrong with people???

    Comment by Deborah — January 10, 2017 @ 6:05 am

  9. I am in the midst of reading your book -Paradise in Plain Sight, which i bought after your post in December, which I am enjoying immensely. The picture of your garden truly is a view of serenity in paradise.

    I am enjoying living in Northern winter paradise, with the conifers all laden with snow this morning. The sky is the same grey hue. It is also serenity. As Canadians we AWAYS talk about the weather.

    Blessings to you all who are hurting from ignorance from your neighbor in the Great White North.

    Comment by Shawn — January 10, 2017 @ 6:46 am

  10. Thank you. The garden is OK. The garden truly endures it all.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 10, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

  11. This post brings me back to the book I just finished reading, The Hidden Life of Trees. That book made me realize so much more clearly how furiously trees are fighting to survive, just like the polar bears, just like all living things. I fear for trees, and for us.

    Comment by Tara — January 14, 2017 @ 8:13 pm

  12. Hi Karen – I wonder if the woman at the B&B wasn’t aware of Connecticut’s drought. I live in Stamford, CT which is about ninety minutes from Hartford and not far from NYC. Stamford’s water supply is so low that the water company had to install a temporary black plastic water pipe to bring water from other parts of the state to the city. The drought is serious and the trees and plants here are suffering, too.

    It rained earlier in the week and someone told me that she was glad that the drought was now over. I told her that I had just driven by the reservoirs and that they were still really, really low. It will take months of regular rain and snow to fill them to normal levels. Climate change was at the tip of my tongue but I decided not to say anything about it. I feared that any mention of a connection between the lack of rain and climate change would not be well received. I don’t like having to edit myself like this but sometimes it seems to be necessary. The alternative is poisoning a connection with another person.

    Comment by Mark — January 15, 2017 @ 7:10 am

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