After enduring California’s worst drought in 500 years, I find myself a little surprised to be longing for sunshine, reciting under my breath a certain child’s rhyme about sending precipitation to the Iberian peninsula, but who knows? Maybe after so many years without meaningful rainfall, we all have earned the right to grouse about the weather, just a little.
What I hope, however, is that we will not forget the lessons we learned during the drought. Now that California’s aquifers and reservoirs are full and fields long fallow will be cultivated again, it will be tempting for us to stop saving water, to install big lawns, and hose down our driveways twice a week.
I once knew an engineer who built desalinization plants, mostly for cities in the Middle East, where sea water is plentiful but groundwater is scarce. He told me his company was working on a major desalinization plant in Santa Barbara during the last big drought. But when the rain started falling again and Cachuma Lake, Santa Barbara’s regular water supply, filled with water, the plant was dismantled and sold to a customer in Oman (or someplace like that). Today Santa Barbara is one of the few places in California where the drought remains severe (currently, Cachuma Lake is at 11% of its capacity). My take away is this: it’s best to prepare for a drought when the rain is falling.
There is a spiritual analog to this: it is good to prepare for struggle in seasons when struggle is not needed. It’s important to think about the morality of war when one’s country is at peace, it’s good to make funeral arrangements while very much alive, it’s good to lay up canned goods before there is an earthquake, it’s good to think about belief before the doubts set in, it’s good to contemplate creative resistance and social activism, before the necessary marches begin.
As I write this, the sun is shining down from a blue sky, doing its level best to warm the chilly air. Enjoy the sunshine, but make sure to check the sump pump and make sure the drainpipes are unclogged, because the rain will return. And when it does, keep saving water because this is California, where rainfall is as unpredictable as life itself.