The life blood of a blue planet

As fires ravage the west coast…we pray for rain. In India, Africa, and Asia droughts and lack of rain parch the lands, and wells and reservoirs are going dry.

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Our aquifers are being depleted at alarming, no…terrifying! rates. And while the recharge (refill) rates vary…most of the large aquifers now being drained to sustain farming, mining, and industry, and support cities in arid western states…need centuries to recharge. 21 of the 37 largest aquifers on our tiny blue planet are being drained at unsustainable rates. Considering that they are the sole source of life sustaining fresh water for hundreds of millions of humans, that we have stressed them beyond the tipping point…where our demand exceeds their ability to be renewed…there is no time to spare in resolving this.

And there is no outcry. The problem perhaps is that “the problem” can’t be seen. It isn’t as easily evident as dried up reservoirs and forests burning due to drought. Big businesses demand their “right” to use as much water as required for their stockholders to continue to make huge profits. When the water is gone…what then?

Water stuck closer to home for me this week. A family not far from where I live have hit some hard times…it happens in these uncertain days more than ever before.  A big family, an unexpected baby girl eight years after the youngest of the five boys, and not enough money to keep the water turned on. That happens in poor neighborhoods all across America. Not expected in middle class suburbia, is it?  People surprised and saddened me with their lack of compassion. The family tries to hide their problem because other children make fun of their boys. I stopped over today and got a car load of big containers and jugs which I refilled at my house and returned to them under the cover of night…when judgmental eyes might not see. A routine thing, three or four times a week. Not noteworthy in any regard save that a simple act of kindness as a neighbor should need to be hidden.

They have worked out a payment arrangement with the water company…another few weeks and their water will be restored…but how sad people turn away from need, instead of reaching out to one another.

Water shouldn’t be beyond the reach of everyone in this country. In a perfect world, where humans cared more about other living beings and less about possessions, would we not, each and every one, strive for the best for all and not only for ourselves?

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Such a small, fragile world made all the more remarkable for the blessing of abundant water. If a few jugs of water makes such a difference, imagine the loss when the source of that precious water is gone.

We have to find a better way, world. While we still can.

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Marsh Memories

Driving over the Cosgrove tonight and the tide was out and the wonderful scent of pluff mud and coastal marsh swept through the car.  Every year when my grandma came to see us she would tell me how she disliked that smell. To her it smelled like ~something died~ to me it smells like the renewal of life.

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These coastal marshes teem with life. Small crustaceans, crabs, shrimp, fish, wading birds, plants, trees, and the teeming abundance of the waters.  The health of the marsh is a good indicator of the health of adjacent ecosystems.

photo by Bob Hider

Driving or strolling the boardwalks along the edges of these wetlands is an unending source of joy, appreciation, and inspiration.

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Pluff mud and Lowcountry marsh….smells like home.

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Spring…Sprung…Sprang?

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Lilacs see to have sprung into bloom… gracing gardens with their perfume and their beauty.

  Dogwood blossoms are everywhere. 

From the trees sprang a myriad of sounds and critters.  Chirruping squirrels, chasing one another in the thrill of spring’s ecstasy.  Tree frogs…completing the chorus with croaks, trills, bleats, and grunts. At night it can sound like a fleet of fire trucks descending on the neighborhood. The anoles don’t have a lot to say as they leap and slither about the limbs or run along the morning glory shrouded fence.  Skinks slither under the raised garden beds, hide in the damp shade beneath the kids’ sand/water table.

Already broadhead skink females are hidden in my woodpile, guarding and tending their clutches of tiny white eggs.

species photo (not  my picture…but I seldom get the females to stand still for me, lol)

The males, with their big red heads are much more imposing than their ladies and less skittish. They love it up in the big live oaks.

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Spring is here in the Lowcountry.  It couldn’t have sprung up at a better time.

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Changes marking time

Some things here at the old house in on the island don’t change a lot … the live oak trees, the spanish moss, the way the sandy soil of the yard sinks underfoot.

Other things seem to be in perpetual flux.  The sounds of traffic on the road a few blocks away. The scents that whisper on the incoming breezes…right now, sweet with jasmine and wisteria…or sometimes earthy and salty with the scent of the marshlands.

The changes I mark most  are the ones whose change reminds me that, over the span of time, nothing changes so very much.  Constant changes.  Like the ocean tides. The great horned owls in the hollow of the live oak…mating, brooding, raising their young…and moving on until next time. The anole coming out with the warmth of spring…big dominant males puffing their throats to warn off the small, slender teenagers with their cocky attitudes, and the coy  females who in the end, really make all the decisions.

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Frogs and toads are laying their eggs, and soon that too will signal change as they become tadpoles and tadpoles become frogs/toads and the damps areas of my yard come alive with song.

The pear tree has blossomed already.  There will be fruit before long.  I await the promise of the fig I have so carefully nurtured through all these winters and this spring’s random frosts far too late in the year…. without someone to cover and protect it, there would be no sweet fruit this year.  No promise of tiny baby fig trees to grow and continue into the future.

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Changes that serve as reminders that it is my privilege and my duty to protect this fragile environment around me.  I don’t grow exotic plants.  I nurture the ones nature placed here…and the ones generations past left behind.  Like the ancient azaleas lining the yard and standing in odd circles about the yard where once… decades ago, they surrounded some long ago tree….now lost to the changes of time and the vagaries of weather.  Yet the azaleas remain, reminding us of time past…and changes yet to come.

Immutable change…as constant and unpredictable as my ocean.

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April foolishness

A gorgeous day in the Lowcountry…mid 80s, clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Wisteria is coming back from the frosts that killed its first flush a couple of weeks ago, camellias and azaleas are offering a scant but determined final bloom and all around my neighborhood there are pinks, reds, corals, and soft purples rejoicing in Spring’s renewal. We have all the windows open every day and night and the fresh air is such a joy after the claustrophobic chill of winter.

The dogs spend a lot more time outdoors.  I spend more free time at the first wave of farm markets.  Last week’s excitement was over asparagus.  This week I am giddy over the prospect of first crop green (spring) garlic (as farmers thin their fields) and sugar snap peas.

Spring’s bounty in Asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup

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The bluebirds are nesting in the backyard. I love watching them skim across the open flight path between the azaleas on one side, the shrubbery on the other, over the ancient wisteria to their little houses along the back fence.  As we are contemplating the possibility of moving from this lovely old house to a smaller place the one thing I should truly miss the most is this yard.  Most people miss their homes…apparently for me home is the outdoors, not the in.

Which means I probably should not be surprised at little environmental themes that seem to be continually popping up in my writing. Who knew dragons had such an important environmental niche to fill?  (okay, so that doesn’t really surprise me as they would be an apex predator and as such a linchpen in their cycle…. I just hadn’t really given it much consideration till they showed up)  Glad they did.