Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Wet Winter, Dry Summer: All about the rain

In the winter the skies open, the water pours down and people try their darndest to get rid of the stuff. In the summer, the sun shines, and shines, and shines, and the drought and dry come to visit, and suddenly: not enough water. Foolish? Stupid? Let’s just say, short-sighted.

How much water comes a calling in the average winter? (And the present one is way over the top, isn’t it?). 3 feet of rain in average over our watershed, and that’s convenient, since three feet of water on an acre is about a million gallons of water. Our watershed being 110,000 acres, that means the average winter rains are 110,000 million gallons. To wit: 110 billion gallons of water a year. (Or, 330,000 acre feet). Lots.

On the Plaza alone, using a reduced 30 inch average of rain for the city here, we receive 7 million gallons of rain. Lots.

And on a large sized city lot of 10,000 square feet, the rains bring over 200,000 gallons ( on lots you use the one cubic foot of water is 7.5 gallons figure). Lots even on lots.

So what’s the obvious solution? Save it in the winter? Right-o! Cisterns. Dry wells, a reverse well into which water is pumped all winter: these allow water to percolate back out into the soil and into the creeks in the summer, when it’s needed. In the hills, streams can be slowed with low tech solutions: fallen trees and boulders do just fine.

Also in the hills, swales would be swell. Swales, a concept the permaculture folks borrowed from a WPA experiment (wildly successful) in the 30’s, are long ditches dug ( by hand or dozer) along the contour on a hillside. Since they are on grade, all the water running down the hill has a chance to slow down, hang around and percolate into he ground.

Over the years, the zones just downhill from the swales become saturated with water, and even in desert climates, over time deeply shading trees can be grown there. Around here, the first three or four rows of vines below a swale ( which are put in about every 50 to 100 yards) could be free from irrigation. These swales obviously help with erosion, too.

So the sky has the rain and the land takes some, the trees need some, the vineyards and farms and pastures need some, but lots nowadays washes away in the winter into the creeks when they need it least. Meanwhile the humans in the Valley use less than 5 % of the amount of water that falls from the sky ( the City water district and Valley of the Moon District together use 6,000 acre feet a year, which is 2%), but we get very little of it from the sky, from our own watershed. No, we are busy robbing the watershed of the Russian River, a short-term solution that ignores our natural bounty.

Is this foolish? Stupid? No, just short-sighted.

Chris Elms
Sonoma, 996-1437

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Valentines, Heart and Hands

Valentine’s Day has something to do with love and affection. It also has a lot to do with one of the most insidious of all unhappiness traps: the desire to have love and affection and approval on our own time schedule, which is to say: right now. You remember grade school, we all do: how anxious to get a pile of cards, or at least One Big Special One.

The heart loves to love. It loves to live ( beat, beat; beat, beat); it lives to love. (Sigh, kiss, kiss, hug, hug). It doesn’t even mind being broken, though the mind minds the breaking of the heart. Bad for the old image. Bad for the old myth: everything lasts.

But the heart doesn’t mind a broken heart, because then it gets to be a heart again and just love. Prior to breaking the heart was tricked by the mind into believing that it also had a pair of hands, the better to grasp tightly something that was ungrasp-able, the better to grab onto another person fixed, tight, close, forever.

Doesn’t work. The other person wiggles away – or dies—and the heart is left without any hands, alone and thumping, pumping without complaint, blood and love. The mind, confused, thinks that all is lost, for where is The One on whom it shone its love light? Gone. The wiggled away one is gone and the mind is distraught. What to do with this stream of love? Pretend it doesn’t exist? Turn it upside down inside out into anger and resentment. Channel it into art and a garden. Well, that’s a step in the right direction: give the heart other outlets than The One to love. The heart loves to love, plants, sky, clouds, colors, songs, other people, yes even other people who aren’t The One. What happens if the heart just breaks not only down but free of the mind’s idea of Just Loving The One? It loves Every One. Wow, that’s a happy heart.

And all this fuss about The One leaving, that isn’t always the problem. Often it is that The One has something better to do right now than give us the love we are demanding. We’ve had a hard day. Want to be pampered. But The One has their own problems and doesn’t have any extra love to spare just then. Two choices: feel bad because nothing’s coming our way, or let the heart do what it loves to do: love the One even when the One isn’t being Won-derful.

Ah love, so thrilling and calming all at once, when it’s real, when I can love Marlie’s beauty, grace and humor as well as her occasional grumpiness and worry. She puts up with me. That’s good for me, and good for her, but if I forget how to appreciate myself, too, I’ll get angry when she has something better to do than be thrilled about me.

Loving is fun. Loving on demand is hell. If I demand that Marlie love me in the moments when she’s not feeling that way, I’m driving her away from me and telling her that she’s okay only when she’s giving me what I want. Doesn’t sound like love, does it? That’s when we learn how to love: when our partner is forgetting how to love us. The heart loves to learn, again and again and again, this is love. So easy. Just do it. And forget. And learn. And do it again.

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