The Drought Comes Home
It seems as though the drought of 2012 (the worst in 60 years or the worst since the Dust Bowl in 1936, depending on what source you listen to) is over. We've had a few rainy days these last two weeks, and, for the first time since June, I had to mow the lawn yesterday.
Not mowing the lawn is a mixed blessing. Since the fellowship started up in July, I've been about 10% more weary and stressed out, and have been very pleased to have one less thing to think about (throughout July of 2011 I had to mow twice a week). On the other hand, having to mow made me keep up with picking up dog poop and yard debris, and made it much more likely that I'd be hanging around outside with the kids.
The drought has been terrible for many people, grocers, restaurant owners and staff, and consumers (The usual thing is to think chiefly of farmers suffering through a drought. The everyday work of farming is difficult, dirty and dangerous [I've done a little agricultural labor during the summers of my youth], but almost all of them have federally-subsidized crop insurance that protects them from drought. No such program exists, I'm sure, for restaurateurs.). Let me just raise my fist and proclaim that it has also been hard on parents. All summer long we have had to grunt and sweat through outdoor fun that leaves us withered and parched (the kids, of course, don't seem to mind the heat). The ban on watering lawns and washing cars made the filling of a backyard kiddy pool feel like a transgressive act akin to bootlegging or illegal gambling ("Hey, Henry. Keep it on the down-low, but word is that Jimmy's breaking out the Slip-n'-Slide on Tuesday if he can find a good scout. You in?"). We have had to plod through desiccated neighborhoods to get to arid parks surrounded by drooping trees that shed their leaves like flakes of dried skin.
It was on one such outing to a park that I felt a little overwhelmed by it all. Henry had brought his sand toys and wanted my help to make a castle. Of course in order to make a castle, you need that compact moist under layer of sand that actually sticks together. We dug down and down. We kept digging until we got to the hard and cracked dirt under the sandbox. That layer of moist brown sand didn't exist- the whole foot-thick sandbox was composed of fluffy dry white silica. I held up a fistful and stared at it in disbelief. We were not sitting in a sandbox, we were perched on the tip of a sand dune that seemed to extend down into the dusty planet like an iceberg beneath the waves. I felt the sudden urge to grab Hal and scramble out of that sandbox, lest it pull us down to become mummies in the earth.