Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Dry Season

Yesterday I walked down the bed of our little stream, from the culverts at the road all the way down to the deep pool. Dry stones clinked and clattered beneath my feet; the coarse sand banks crunched and gave way freely as I trod them. Save the shallow pools and puddles every few yards, the stream bed was bone dry.

The stones and sand served as a canvas for countless animal tracks—the deep gouges made by the abundant deer who bounded across the stream in their travels from woods to fields; the delicate, busy marks of the tiny-handed raccoons, the direction-less skitterings of anonymous birds.

The rapidly diminishing pools and puddles were crammed full of frantic minnows, dashing from one side to the other, desperately seeking room to move. They shared their tiny oasises with a handful of frogs and crayfish, the former shown only by their sudden leaping from the shore to the water at my approach, the latter identifiable by the distinctive tracks they left in the muddy bottom.

This now represents the third summer of the five we have lived on this hilltop in the woods to face drought. The abundant snows of last winter—more than two feet worth that slowly melted, lingering into March—seem to have done little to ameliorate the long, hot, dry summer's impact. Learning year-by-year, we have gradually added a dozen rain barrels to help buffer the rain across the dry spells. But when there is no rain, the rain barrels can offer little help; they were tapped dry several times over.

Last night, we received our first real rain in over a month—maybe an inch. Today holds the promise of more rain to come, but I am not holding my breath. An inch of rain, coming on the heels of such a drought, does little but dampen the top layer of soil and temper the wildfire danger for a few days. The mindless voices on the radio are already chirping about the beautiful days that will start the workweek—more warm, dry, sunny days, which we need right now like a hole in the head. I would be happy for a nice, collapsing tropical storm that drizzled steadily on us for a couple of days straight.

Keeping fingers crossed.

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