How ’bout a little rain?

The last post focused on San Francisco Bay, where my best friend in high school and I used to windsurf anytime we got the chance. Our spots were: Redwood Shores, Foster City, and Coyote Point, the last being in the open bay right beneath the jets as they made final approach to SFO.

On the less windy days, we typically chose to put in at Foster City, where there was a lagoon. If we were becalmed there, there was no worry of being sucked toward the Golden Gate by tides, and the vibe was a little warmer and a little beachier. Nonetheless, we took the absence of wind hard, and routinely dared God to send us a gust of wind that we could ride. Though we were both avowed atheists, in our personal insults hurled at the Creator of the Universe, we tasted something that I now know to have been a form of faith. “You’re not man enough to knock me off my board with a gust of wind, God” – that was typical of our pronouncements.

Now, 30 years later, I sit in a very dry place: Austin, Texas. Thankfully, I work on the river, and get to enjoy much of what I loved in the Bay Area way back when.

A greener spring than this one in Central Texas, with a good carpet of bluebonnets and a knot of prickly pear cactus. Photo credit: Mike & Joyce Hendrix

On the other hand, the dryness of the atmosphere here during droughts does start to eat at a person. Keeping one’s garden going during a drought is an even bigger project than usual, for one thing. Keeping one’s grass green, ditto.

Now, I have progressed in my quest for spirituality, I hope, a little tiny bit since those days of throwing insults toward Heaven, however tongue-in-cheek I thought I was being at the time. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes want to dare Great Spirit to send a few inches of rain my way. There is a yearning for rain in me, and in many, here in Central Texas.

I should know better by now. In the five years that my family and I have lived in this part of the country, there have been either drought or flood conditions just about every day, and sometimes both. The amazing proliferation of creek beds and riverbeds and cacti tell me that this is business as usual in these parts, all of which helps to explain a battle-weary look in the eyes of many of the people who grew up here.

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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2 Responses to How ’bout a little rain?

  1. JHW says:

    You’re right in what you say about the extremes of weather that have been common in Austin for longer than we’ve been here. And I certainly have no insight into man’s effect on the global weather. But it seems necessary to remind us that we do need to moderate our behaviors regarding our immediate surroundings in the rapidly growing city of Austin. For one, even if this were a “normal” year for rainfall, the much larger population would drink, bathe, farm, irrigate and waste its way through that water faster; so we’ve got less time during an incipient drought to feel complacent about it. But my pet peeve isn’t “global warming,” it’s “our immediate environment around us” warming: people ARE causing the city all around me to heat up, and I don’t like it. I strongly suspect that Austin, always a hot place in a long summer, has gone from having 98 degree days to having 102 degree days just due to the increased amount of unshaded asphalt, utility lines unhindered by tree branches, and vehicles idling blithely everywhere now to keep vastly improved a/c systems running. Remember when cars would boil over if left idling too long? That is no longer the case with modern automobile cooling systems ventilated by electric fans; you can leave a black Suburban idling in a sunny parking lot for an hour while you talk on a cel phone, and people often do. In short, it seems to me that now commonplace human behaviors not even technically possible a few decades ago, coupled with regional population growth, are making our city and surroundings hotter. I think that for no other reason than our comfort we should combat this trend. I would also add that when you’re building a city of “creative class” people, little things like comfort of the physical world they will be living in is more important than ever. So if you’re into that sort of inter-city rivalry for economic purposes that everyone seems so attuned to these days, there’s your economic justification for caring about this.
    By the way, nice little rain we had today!

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