Earth Is a Bus We Can’t Get Off, and I Don’t Trust the Drivers

Winter has fled the West Coast and ended in the East. Seated as I am in the Northern California section of our “bus”, I wish, not for oil pipelines but for water pipelines to carry such moisture to our parched state from those who are over supplied.

Normally no rain falls in the California valleys in the summer and nearly none in the fall. Winter and spring are supposed to be our wet months, but weather doesn’t always follow the rules. This winter, after a three-year drought, the fates gifted us with a December of almost solid rain. Wow! We celebrated. And measured. And found it only a dribble of what we would need to replenish all that has been lost. Also, it was too warm to add much to the snow pack in the mountains to carry us through the next summer. And when December ended, along with the rain, fear rose in me this was all we would get.

It proved nearly the case in January, with an anemic downpour that brought an eleventh of an inch. The rest of the month gave us “precipitation” in the form of dense fog. At least it kept the grasses green.

This is the first winter I recall 70 degree days. The first time I remember a winter of 60 degree days–for a brief period–was in the 1960s. My sister and I took advantage of the unusually warm day to go hiking. Leading into the 1960s, one expected day-time highs in the 40s and 50s. Our first warm day, when we could confidently put away our winter clothes, was May first, when we attended the Pioneer Day Parade in Chico and visited the exhibits. Somehow I get the impression then that the height of the wildflower season occurred in May. In the 60s, the height of the season became April. And now much of it is in March.

The almond orchards used to bloom in mid to late February, and the approach to Chico would remind me of a bridal path with miles of pinkish white blossoms on both sides of Highway 32. Now some almond trees are already in bloom the last week of January. Perhaps these are earlier varieties. But in January! Honeybees are vital to the almond crop. We saw only a few bees on our almond tree, last spring, and because of inadequate pollination, most of the nuts aborted.

Looking back to earlier years, I remember the buzz of bees swarming over blossoms. Insects were everywhere, it seemed. You couldn’t drive down the road without the front of your car being spattered by bees, flies, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and other insects. Since the 1960s, I’ve noticed we don’t need bug screens on the front of our cars any more. Except when hives are set up during the blooming season, and then bees cross the road at their peril.

I miss the variety of insects. They seem to be getting fewer. And they’re not the only family group in decline. Already we’ve lost many of our amphibians. Do you remember when you couldn’t look into a stream or a ditch without seeing countless tadpoles? Can you recall the flattened toads that inevitably appeared by the driveway? The animals we are most familiar with number in the hundreds or thousands. We number in the billions.

Change has been upon us for some time, and it’s becoming more obvious. We’re immersed in it. And we are responsible for much of it. Look around, and you may notice the changes I haven’t mentioned. Enough people have noticed, and they have shown us the signs and have instructed us on how to leave a light footprint on the earth.

What will spring bring, this year? A little or a lot less than last year?


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