Sans Snow

Yesterday is even prettier than the day before. The day before, the first day after Solstice.


Solstice was low key for my wife and me, with earthy soup, bread and other foods. Rain and steely skies with a chilly wind was perfect for inducing depression. The rain finally stopped. Four thirty in the afternoon, we went to the fire pit outside, lit our Yule log, and made our supplications to the powers of existence about what we wanted out of this next year. Then we watched the fire burn and meditated until the rain returned, dousing the log before it burned down. That seemed like an ambivalent omen.

The day after Solstice found winds had swept the clouds away. Rain still tainted the landscape with puddles, trickles, and sopping surfaces but the temperature had wiggled into the mid 50s and a refreshing breeze, the sort that air freshener companies keep trying to emulate, lifted my spirits. This feels like a good day, I decreed during my walk but wonder what it means for the year.

Yesterday, it’s worse. Prettier. Sunnier. Warmer. More pleasant.

No snow tops the ranges in any direction. Usually I walk and admire the snow topping the low peaks less than a ten miles away, just two or three thousand feet higher than my town. There’s no snow there.

That’s ominous, terribly ominous. Our town has a few reservoirs and cisterns but we’re mostly about capturing and using the snowbanks’ runoff as it melts. No snowbank, no melting, no water. 2014 was a year of voluntary rationing. Short showers. Low baths. Capturing bath water to flush the toilet and water plants. Letting the yard’s grass brown without water. If you had the money or were willing to spend it, you could do those things, as the voluntary rationing was done through monetary penalties. The more you used, the more it cost you. If you’re wealthy, not a problem. Not yet.

This year is already beginning to appear to be worse. The snowbanks that we used last year were mostly leftovers from previous years. They are gone. The snow larder is bare. Enduring this water shortage last year, I told my wife, “We may need to move to somewhere with a more secure water supply.” I’m uncertain where that is. Maybe I’m being rash, premature and negative. I’ve had those genes from birth. Life has heightened their influences.

She’s mentioned to her friends that I was thinking about moving somewhere else. She didn’t completely explain why I’m seeking a move. They apparently think that if I had more friends, a more active social life, that I wouldn’t want to move. It seems my motives are completely misconstrued. Yes, I miss the ocean but I’m more disturbed by the water situation and the government’s response at all levels. Government planning seems to amount to, this, too, shall pass. Droughts have been endured before. There’s no reason for them to think this one won’t end sooner or later. Meanwhile, just hunker down and bear it. Endure.

Enduring is not much of a plan.


Today’s newspaper has a front page shout out about more new development along Lithia Way. Excellent! That’s the kind of can-do spirit needed. Businesses are failing, buildings are empty, and we have water supply problems. Certainly more new buildings are just the solution! Build, build, build, build like there’s no tomorrow.

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Hard Up Against Priorities

So here we are, hard up against our priorities in southern Oregon.  Like much of the western United States, we're coping with severe drought.  The snow base didn't rebuild last year after a shortfall the previous year.  The city was and is in danger of using too much water and running out.  

City council took steps.  They posted signs urging all of us to use water wisely and conserve.  Information fliers with tips for yard and plant care and intelligent water use were created, published and disseminated.  While water rationing wasn't announced, a tiered system for charging customers for their water use was created.  The more you use, the more you pay, which, like many things in America, rewards the wealthiest.  You can have and use water, if you can afford to pay for it....  If you can't pay, you must limit your use or do without.

Driving around town, the dichotomy is very evident.  Wealthier neighborhoods and home owner associations have lovely green lawns and beautifully flowering, green plants.  Poorer folks, or those with a social conscience, don't.  

What's also evident is who and where else the priorities lie.  The city and the university grounds are well watered, so much so that they're sodden in some places.  City and university grounds are also watered at the hottest time of day, making you pause to ask, 'What the what?'  It becomes a classic example of do as I say, not as I do.  Worse, however, are the football fields.  They've all been watered and maintained, which is galling to learn.  The education system is increasing class sizes while scrambling to save money, with teachers buying supplies for their classrooms, and here is money being spent to water the sports fields.

Yes, the priorities here are very easy to see.

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