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A shift to emerald

Let me preface what I’m about to say by stating that I’m clear on the fact that rain, pouring hard, has been known to create zones of standing water. And I am also clear that the average tire handles pools of water somewhat like a flat stone (even though the two bear about as much resemblance as an earthworm and a zinnia)—it skips across it, leaving the driver bereft of control.

But, that being stated up front, I had the opportunity this weekend to drive on Northern California’s highways in pouring rain, and I have also, during the recent rainfall that has come through, been privy to more than one person who has complained about the rain and/or attributed low attendance at places like church to the weather.

The weather, people. The weather. The weather that involves rain. A chilly rain, indeed. A rain that invites one to cuddle up under a blanket with a nice glass of single malt. But it’s not ice, it’s not snow, and I find it very hard to muster sympathy under the circumstances.

So, like I said, there was the driving. And all the people around me, on Sunday night, as I drove north, were of two types: They drove like the Wicked Witch of the West, darting from one lane in the other as if they were afraid of melting, or they drove like the Wicked Witch’s grandmother.

I stayed overnight in Fairfield, so I missed the pleasure of a twice-in-one-night trip on I-80 in said rain, and took off the next morning back to Oakland in a daylit downpour. I remember driving that stretch of road the day I moved to California, my car winding on I-80 West through already browning hills on either side, It was so different from the late-spring green I’d left behind in Iowa.

This time, as I drove through after a few days of heavy rains, those same hillsides had turned emerald. The grass looked like it was dolled up for its very own Spring fling. I would have tried to get a picture to capture the color, but while I don’t think California has specifically banned photography while driving (along with talking on the phone sans headset and text-messaging), I didn’t take the chance. (I promise, Mom.) But it was a dramatic message in a state so desperate for water. And for that reason, I embrace the rain, splash in the puddles, and enjoy the bright green while it lasts.

7 Comments on “A shift to emerald”

  1. #1 Zannie
    on Feb 17th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    It’s all about what’s normal for the region. The average temperature in Baghdad in July is 109 degrees Fahrenheit. A friend of mine who lived there for three years reported much higher temperatures, like 130, on occasion. While I’m sure people complain about the edge cases, they probably don’t complain much about 109, because it’s normal for them and they have infrastructure, culture and habits that help them deal with it. People in Des Moines, I imagine, do not have such things in place, and would complain.

    So, rain. We get rain. We get hail. (I got hailed on this morning, in fact.) We don’t normally get anything more extreme than that, and when the weather starts pushing the edge cases for our region, our infrastructure and habits are strained. We complain.

    That said, this rain is not out of the norm for us. In fact, yesterday’s storm brought us up to 75% of normal for the season-to-date. I’m glad for it. My garden is glad for it. I haven’t heard anyone complaining, but I have heard people refer to it as “all this rain,” as though it were a lot–and it’s not.

    People do stay home more when it rains though, even normal amounts of rain. I guess when it snows and the snow sticks, there’s not a lot of point to delaying out-of-house activities because you’d have to delay until spring, but with rain you can always go tomorrow, or next week, when it probably won’t be raining. So attributing low attendance to the weather, even at church, is an accurate reflection of how people behave here. We don’t go out when it’s wet, most of the time.

  2. #2 inadvertentgardener
    on Feb 17th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Zannie, it’s definitely an interesting behavioral study — I agree that it’s all what people are used to. And yes — I wasn’t really expecting the hail here — I kind of thought of that as a Midwestern, thunderstormy experience, but indeed, we even got a thunderstorm here today. A little out of the norm, for sure!

    I guess what keeps surprising me is that my understanding, from those who have lived here much longer than me, that, as you said, this IS normal. And yet, I hear so many people acting like it’s totally bizarre and unexpected. I’ve loved the moderate and sunny winter as much as anyone, really, but I do love seeing the rain come down and know the crops are, in the long-term, going to benefit.

  3. #3 Sharon
    on Feb 17th, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    We moved to California at the end of 1988, right in the middle of a long drought. We didn’t see the hills “green up” for several years. All we saw was brown grass. We did see a lot of irrigation, even big fields had water sprinklers. The first rainy winter we were amazed at how green the hills became. I do complain about the inconvenience at getting around in the rain, mostly because the storm sewers seem unable to handle steady rain so there is a lot of flooding. There were also high winds, so a lot of tree limbs and palm branches down all over. But would I trade this for the weather back East or in the Midwest where my husband was raised? Absolutely not, hail and all.

  4. #4
    on Feb 18th, 2009 at 4:06 am

    To my midwestern mind, California has two weathers: dry (wild fires) and wet (mud slides). I know that’s just what I see on the news and I also know that the entire state of California doesn’t hang on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Folks complain about the weather where ever they live. That’s just human nature. And, while thunderstorms and hail wouldn’t keep Iowans off the road, we also are not dealing with the amount of traffic you have out there. On the bright side, you probably don’t have a run on the bread and milk in your stores when it rains. (Genie – you know what I mean!) :-)

  5. #5 inadvertentgardener
    on Feb 18th, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Sharon, it’s definitely true — it seems like the roads and drains don’t handle heavy rain that well here — not much drainage happening. (And I wouldn’t trade this either…)

    Sally, you’re absolutely right and I know exactly what you mean! More traffic, less snow…it’s all a trade-off. And all something to complain about. ;-)

  6. #6 Al_Pal
    on Feb 18th, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Neat. Yeah, we’ve been enjoying seeing the hills so green! (and the backyard!)
    Good point was made above about being able to delay going out a day, or a week, till the rain was over.
    I stock up on canned goods before winter so that I don’t have to go out in the rain. Not so much because I don’t like it, but some people are crap drivers, and paper grocery bags melt in the rain. :P

  7. #7 inadvertentgardener
    on Feb 19th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Al_Pal, good point about the paper grocery bags. All the more reason to purchase a reusable Inadvertent Gardener tote bag! They definitely do not melt…guaranteed.

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