Claire McEwen’s Blog


It rained this week. For anyone reading this who lives east of the Rockies, or in the Pacific Northwest, you might think, “So? It rains all the time. I don’t like it. It keeps me inside and gets my feet wet and makes my commute worse.” But you, my friends, don’t live in California. Or Nevada, or Arizona or any of the other western states where water is so precious and so rare.

California, where I live, is in the worst drought in its recorded history. The river in my town, which is also the source of much of our water, has turned into a tiny creek. The reservoirs are so dry that in many places they’ve become mud flats. Last year my city asked us very nicely to please cut down on our outside watering. This spring they’ll implement mandatory rationing, with penalties if we use too much.

I grew up in drought. I was a child in the seventies in Marin County, which is dependent on local reservoirs for water. While the rest of the state rationed their water, we RATIONED. One or two baths a week, always shared with at least one of my sisters. Laundry water siphoned off to try to keep the landscaping somewhat alive. Every car in town coated with layers of dust, since there was no water for cleaning them. And the worst part, toilets we could only flush a few times a day. Ew. Not something I’m looking forward to experiencing again.

This past week, it rained. Real storms with the wind off the ocean moaning around our house, rain pouring down sideways so hard it kept turning on the motion-sensitive lights outside. Rain, just like we’ve been dreaming of. My husband and I ran out to the patio and danced under the drops. It was such a relief to feel that water falling from the sky. I swear I could hear the plants in my garden cheering.

All week, my son watched the rain through the windows, fascinated. He hasn’t seen too much rain in his four years of life. It took us days to convince him to get outside and slosh in the puddles in his rain boots. Being a cautious little fellow, he wasn’t sure about walking around in all that unfamiliar water on the ground. My husband talked him into it yesterday and my son’s grin was ear-to-ear as he stood in his boots in the murky puddle water.

My son loved the stormy waves as well. We live by the ocean and he’s used to waves, but not the roiling, chaotic soup of a wind-whipped ocean, where the waves crisscross each other to slam into the cliffs, shooting spray over the path we play on almost every day. He even named those erupting waves. They are now known as an Aye-eee! Named after the sound you make when one comes shooting up into the air, surprising you.

The news articles caution us that the measly few inches of rain this storm brought won’t make a dent in the drought. The sun is due to come out tomorrow and shine all week. I wish we could have more rain. I wish the problems of our arid state could be solved. But another part of me, the gratitude part, is just so happy. It rained! The dusty leaves on the plants got washed, the redwood trees that grace the mountains behind us got a drink, and the dry streams ran again, if only for a few hours.

And my little son got to stand in a puddle up to ankles, laughing at the mud sticking him to the bottom. He got to wear the adorable blue rain boots, decorated with vintage trucks, that I bought him with so much false hope last year. He got to watch the tumultuous ocean and experience the thrill of an Aye-eee! shooting up the cliffs. And he got to feel the salt spray misting down over his happy, rain-spattered face.

Now it’s time to get back to reality. I’m digging up my lawn and putting down gravel. I’m planting my yard with drought tolerant plants. We’re installing the newest, highest- tech, lowest-flow toilet so that, hopefully, we’ll still be able to flush. Our cars will get dusty again after their rain-bath. And we’re trying to figure out a way to get our laundry water siphoned out to use on the landscaping, just like we did in the seventies. But I’m so glad we got to have at least a few days of rain!

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