October is a few days away and this is the view out my back gate. Everything is dry, brown and ready to burst into flames at the simple thought of fire. It is what I call the Fifth Season. Most of us who don’t live in the tropics or Southern California are accustomed to the four seasons, Spring, Fall, Winter and Summer, but here in Northern California we have a fifth season, called Fire Season. Now, fire season runs from when the rains stop in May and sometimes we get a shower in June but that is rare, until the rains return, if the rains return, in September or October. This year the rains have yet to return.
It is possible the fires that ravage this region don’t make the news all that much. It is a given that California, Nevada and some of the other desert states will burn. This is the third drought I’ve lived through in Northern California. This drought is different because it is taking too much of the ground water, meaning the waters in the aquifers underground, to survive this particular drought. They are calling this a ‘historic’ drought, not seen in these parts for over a thousand years. It is something truly terrible to witness, as I watch my trees die, branch by branch. The forests are tragic to see, not only are the trees succumbing to the drought, but we have an infestation of bark beetle, an insect that burrows under the outer bark, eating the trees alive, leaving entire groves brown and dead. There is quite a lot of fuel for fire season.
It is odd to me, therefore, to see large homes and even larger communities popping up all throughout this state. The expensive homes, of which there are many, all require some water saving devices but the new homeowners generally want a pool, it is California after all. There is a rather hefty surcharge to put in a pool and for a while there was a moratorium on new pools, but that didn’t stop the permits from being issued and the pool companies building lovely new pools. I cannot see how this will end but there is only so much water to go around. Nevada is even worse than California. Las Vegas relies on Lake Mead for water, which is in as bad a condition as all of California, but now they plan to build a football stadium. No one seems to question the water needs of such a venture so maybe the predicted ‘water wars’ are not the stuff of science fiction anymore.
For me, I am done with this desert and all the water worries that go with it. I grew up in the Ohio River valley, where it rains rather regularly. I’ve been planning a move back to the land of rain for some time and that time has come. The historic drought has made my presence here history.