Riding to class today, I heard a radio DJ sharing our weather report. He gloomily said the rain chance for tomorrow, which had been high, is dropping. And it will likely be another exquisitely sunny day here in Central Texas, with a high temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I thought, “I wish it would rain.” And, “Thank goodness it won’t stay 90 degrees,” which is today’s forecasted high.
I look at weather very differently than I did as a girl.
Or even as a young-married—when I first arrived in Central Texas, winters here were damp and shifted gradually into summer by about June. Not unlike the weather I knew in Florida, though Georgia weather was cold enough in winter to have a “proper” (differentiated) spring. Even then Central Texas was drier than my East Coast experiences; one could see it in the grey-green vegetation and the stubby trees. But the rains in winter were the same.
After continuous years of drought, those years now look fecund.
After 2011, I wince at every hot day.
In 2011, we had 90 days over 100 degrees. The 90-degree-plus days began that April, the month just now past. On the 8th. The heat didn’t quit until after September. The earth, already parched from near-continuous drought cycles beginning back in 2000, began to refuse rain—to be so hot that moisture evaporated before it could become clouds, or fall. A neighborhood near mine burned in May; I drove through smoke on my way to teach a class. A large part of the town of Bastrop burned in September.
In 2011, I began to think hard about the world described in Dune, which I read in high school. Stillsuits began to sound practical, and urgent. I lived in a world where water only came from a tap. No puddles. Many rivers had disappeared. One could walk across lakes—former lakes, that is. When all the water you can see is tap-water, it doesn’t take much imagination to see turning the tap to… nothing.
In 2000, my girls were finishing preschool. Think on this: they have not known rain to be routine since before they were five.
In 2013 we visited my high school stomping grounds, Pittsburgh PA and environs. I remember looking at the lush green mountainsides and breathing deeply; I’d been holding my breath, in a way, in my rainless landscape at home. Green and lush relaxed me into my childhood.
My youngest repeatedly commented on how the vines were coming to get her. There were too many; they were everywhere; they were closing in. My ‘lush’ feels unnatural to someone reared in a dry land.
I’m absorbing that perspective.
I can’t decide whether I’m glad I have this changed relationship with water. It feels more realistic to me than the unthinking assumption of abundance I once operated with… I mean, I started conserving water when I was about 6 because I was ecologically minded, but that was more academic than urgent. Now I’m routinely mindful; water always matters.
I miss the simple pleasure of fountains.
Water collected—and sprayed—for beauty…
How can one not look, both with longing and sadness?