Unseasonably powerful rain storms slash across the the Pacific Northwest and pummel my flowers. In recent days, I’ve lost Delphinia and asters; now, my tomatoes are at risk to the cool temperatures – in the 40’s through the night.
And, so, while the variable weather has brought ruin to some plants, the rain and rain and rain have brought benefits to other things around my yard and, farther away, some relief to our larger worries about drought. Our seasonal water barrel fills up, the temperature point falls, the ground water and saturation have been extended, maple trees will likely have prolific leafing and fir trees will likely pop out more cones. Can you see this cycle in your imagination?
When I look out my window and watch the rain in May, I may be tempted to keep my field of vision tightly framed. But a global view and a systems background helps me open that frame to multiple consequences near and distant:
- My lawn will extend its growing season. More people in the neighborhood will mow for up to an extra month – more pollution since most use power mowers. However,
if they compost their clippings, boffo for mulch in fall and new spring.
- My red maple’s branches, now sodden with rain, bend down nearly to the ground, crowding out daylillies on the west. They are late to bloom
- Sociologically, my students’ eyes tend to remain on academics. So long as the daily flow of rain keeps coming, my students remain relatively attentive.
- Around the Northwest, reservoirs may fill and keep filled since this rain broadly and the air is cool enough for some snow to fall farther up the watershed.
And so I might go on to talk about various changes and alterations in the natural cycle. All of these events and results fall within an expected range of possibilities; it’s just that these come around every decade or so, maybe every generation.
Now, it’s hailing. Across the street, our neighbor’s Douglas fir recedes behind a sheath of south-falling hail. It’s like watching small time-release water capsules drop from the sky. Because it is raining and hailing today, the long delay called evapotranspiration allows me to enjoy gardening all the way to early August, when the dry season clamps down so I will have
to change my watering and weeding tactics.
It’s the rain. In my mind’s eye, I can see the clouds forming hundreds out at sea, the isobars on the forecaster’s map aligning along a front, and so the vast weather pattern shifts to draw the cold and moisture over the coast range, drenching the forests, loading the Cascades and Bitterroots with snow. The snowpack yields its flow into the Columbia Basin, where dozens of dams generate electricity that powers my city and my house and this computer on which I compose this log and place this final period.