The Drier It Gets

Saying prayers for the people in a couple of towns here in Florida, just east of Tampa, that are having wildfires right now. Here on the east side of the state where I live (Daytona Beach), we have no fires (that I know of), but it’s been a long wait for the rainy season to start. Seeing endless days of sun and wind in the forecast.

Relentlessly dry sunny weather always feels to me like that relentlessly cheery, “positive thinking” relative or Facebook frenemy who won’t let anyone talk about “negative” feelings because “we attract what we think about.” (Mental-health public-service announcement: Thoughts and feelings are the weather of our inner landscape; they are all part of life just as rain is. The surest way to keep an unpleasant feeling around, or turn your mind into rigid concrete, is to try and banish so-called “bad” feelings through “positive thinking.”)

Back to rain … I hope we never have to find out what it’s like to go for a summer without rain in Florida. But we have disrupted the rain cycle by destroying our forest belts and wetlands. Vegetation and wetlands are an essential part of the hydrological cycle.

This has been weighing heavy on my mind. (And heavy on my body, as I sometimes spend hours hauling water from my rainbarrels to trees and plants in the yard because there is no rain for them as would usually be expected.)

On the weather page, a person from another town in Florida commented that she had had rain only twice at her house since September 2020.

Worldwide, there are places in multi-year drought while some are hit by violent storms, flooding. Massive disruption of weather cycles as we have destroyed huge swathes of forest and wetland that are the life and lungs of the planet.

And drought can be self-reinforcing. In the words of Laurie K., a fellow eco-citizen in my area: “A scary thing about droughts is that the longer they go on, the less chance for moisture from the ground to go back up to clouds to form the rain and the ground gets harder so what little rain falls can’t get to the root systems. It can be a vicious cycle.”

Australia experienced a drought from 1996-2012 that came to be known as the “Big Dry.” Parts of Central or South America have had little or no rain for the past five years or more.

Wherever you are, it’s likely you have experienced some version of worsening drought-flood extremes.

Suggested action steps for you:

• Ask your local government to prioritize reforestation; back off on needlessly harsh landscaping practices such as excessive mowing, the use of chemicals, and removal of fallen leaves from under trees. And of course, do these things at your own residence or any other property you manage.

• Ask your local government to consider collecting rainwater off of public buildings; and to encourage residential and commercial rainwater collection. Rainwater collection is another component of repairing the hydrological cycle. Catch and store rain when you’re getting more of it than the ground can hold. Then use it on your site during the dry spells.

• Go outside whenever you can, notice anything about the weather that you can give thanks for. The other night, for me (I often take a little stretch in my yard during my wee-hours wakeup window), that moment of thanks was for the most brief and delicate little rain-sprinkle that started as I walked outside. I would never have noticed it if I’d stayed inside. It was beautiful; I felt the plants feel it, and I myself thrilled to the smell of the rain.

• Read up on the hydrological cycle (or watch YouTube or other videos about it.).

• Drawing on my training in permaculture design and other fields, I am available to give talks for churches, neighborhood associations, community groups, and so on, about how you can work with nature to green-up your community and become more resilient, less vulnerable to droughts, flooding and other disasters. And make your place a sanctuary for life and human connection. My talks are by Zoom or equivalent, so I’m available to you wherever you are located. Contact me and we’ll set a date! I always have openings in my schedule.

• Tune up your inner landscape in order to be more resilient through times of adversity, be it drought or anything else. A couple of good reads for this are offered below.

“I’m starting to see the unifying principle behind all the philosophies that really appeal to me (e.g. Buddhism, Stoicism, Arnold Schwarzenegger). They view all of life’s moments as having equal value, at least where it counts, and what counts is your skill in embracing the moments that make up your life. It’s a genius idea, possibly the smartest thing human beings ever came up with. Embracing all moments as a rule transforms every day into precisely what you’re looking for: an interesting variety of experiences, every one of which offers you what you value, regardless of what happens in particular. This is a dramatic improvement over the prevailing mammalian strategy – desperately trying to make certainties out of favorable possibilities, and impossibilities out of unfavorable possibilities. It’s a losing game by definition, so playing it makes us unhappy. The bigger our brains get, the more obsessively we try to map out every contingency, and the more of our lives we spend suffering possibilities in our heads instead of appreciating the actualities around us. All moments can be appreciated, on a basic level at least, when you value the two opportunities each one offers – to respond skillfully to what’s happening, and to experience being alive for another moment. When this is what’s valued – rather than the fleeting bubbles of pleasure or ease they might bring — an unpleasant moment is just as good as a pleasant one, sometimes better.” (from David at Raptitude, “When All Moments Have Equal Value“)

“If you want to enjoy life, deliberately appreciating what you’re experiencing is a great way to move forward. If what you’re experiencing is difficult to appreciate, then take a few minutes and find something in your life that you can appreciate. Then find something else to appreciate. Keep going until you can appreciate anything in your life.” (“Appreciation,” from Star’s Edge, the company created by Harry Palmer to administer The Avatar® Course.)