If you didn’t already know, California has been in a years long drought – 5-6 years, depending upon the source. For at least the past couple of winters, we were promised wet systems that would break our drought. None materialized. So, you can imagine my skepticism when some were making that same promise this year. In fact, I wasn’t the only skeptic – many meteorologists were very lukewarm about the outlook this year. It always seems to be just when you give up that things change – and Mother Nature seized her opportunity!
I’m sitting and watching yet another story of flooding, mudslides, and evacuations. On the screen come images of nearby roads under water, and the heedless drivers taking their chances. Make no mistake – we are not experience the sort of flooding that occasionally hits the midwest, when you see entire towns where only roofs are visible above the water. That type of flooding has been known in our valley, but humans long ago took control. There are still areas that experience that sort of flooding; but those are intentional flood plains, left unpopulated.
With three months yet to go, in our typical rainy season, we have already received rainfall above our annual average – and there is currently no end in sight. Just within this first week of February we have already had our normal monthly rainfall total. Having spent my “formative” years in and around Seattle, I happen to be a big fan of rain. I love a gray, drizzly day – and I particularly love the breaks, when stunning cloud formations make fascinating ‘landscapes’ in the sky. If I led a more ‘domestic’ life, I would be loving this very rainy winter. But I have horses.
There was a day, decades ago, when I could revel in the rainy weather. Our horses were boarded, so rainy day stall cleaning was not our problem. The barn had an indoor arena, so even in the wettest year everyone could get exercise. In fact, I loved nothing more than riding inside on a rainy night. I never understood what everyone fussed about – a little rain never stopped me! That was then …
In a normal year, our arena is rarely completely out of commission, so exercise is still an option. This year, it has become like a sponge left too long in the sink. Our property is too small to have sacrifice areas to allow the horses to muck around, so everyone is unfortunately kept inside. In weather like we’ve had, this ends up being a safety precaution as well. Our fence line is paralleled by a line of mature eucalyptus trees, on our neighbor’s side, and most years at least one ends up on our side of the fence. This year two fell on the arena, but were fortunately smaller trees that did little damage. More recently a forty foot giant fell on a favorite grazing spot – leaving a break in the fence as well as a major hazard.
Like children stuck in the house on rainy days, the horses are beginning to bounce off the walls – in Noble’s case, literally! Of course, he has been the one exception to outdoor access. His run has been open to the back for most of the winter – but the giant boy cannot bear getting his size four feet muddy! So, even on clear days, he stays inside and misses out on exercise and grass. Two boards have already become casualty to his cabin fever, with more no doubt following in the coming days.
Although the Seattle girl in me still loves this weather, there is a part of me that begins to loathe it. The trip to the barn is now done in tiny steps, as we struggle to keep from taking a long slide that will not end well. The ground is now so saturated that our barn aisle is inexplicably soggy … not damp, but as mushy as the outdoors in odd spots. Our entry into the barn is often greeted with chaos, as the excitement of imminent feeding boils over with pent up energy. The peace that rain brings me is continually challenged by the chaos it’s creating in our environment.
As I finish this little rant, news stories come on about tornadoes in Louisiana. Life has a way of offering perspective – for all of the inconvenience we’re living through, it is nothing compared to seeing your house reduced to match sticks. Our problems will resolve themselves when spring finally comes, while others are facing a long road to restarting their lives.
Oh well … what’s a little mud after all? Now … if I can just convince Noble to feel the same way, my barn might actually survive the winter!
Wherever you are, stay safe and dry!