Kage Baker liked Spring.
Well, most people do, of course. Winter ends, the snow becomes scarce, flowers bloom, baby animals frolic through the new grass. The earth and air warm up, and with any luck (as Sir Terry Pratchett says) the oxygen melts again.
It’s a popular season with anybody who dislikes being wet, cold or hungry for months on end; I’m sure the people on the East Coast of North America would like it if Spring ever comes to them again. You’ve got to be pretty miserable to be pinning your weather hopes on a sub-arctic marmot. Not that has done much good for us this year.
The groundhog did predict 6 more weeks of Winter on February 2nd. But we ran over that deadline 2 weeks ago now, and the East Coast just got clobbered with another ice storm. Here in California, we were in a hot spell when the groundhog did his thing, temperatures spiking into the 80’s. Now we’re finally getting cooler and wetter, but we’re still in a drought in the Golden State. It could be worse – our mudslides are much smaller than Washington state, where they are losing entire towns.
It’s not going to be a good year for lettuce. Or much else. The Florida citrus crop froze to death, where it wasn’t swallowed by sinkholes; the California crop is gasping for water. The Central Valley wind carries the failing sighs of apples, quinces, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries … all the daughters of the rose, dying of thirst. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, wheat, barley and greens of every colour: Winter was dry and Spring has only been a date on the calendar.
I’m finding the whole thing pretty discouraging this year. Eventually, I am sure, California will find some equipoise with the climate changes and settle down a little. I don’t feel that buckwheat, tule roots and cactus fruits are going to be nearly as popular as fresh grapes and berries, but something will grow here, certainly. We have wonderful soil. Barley, bless its heart, comes in several drought-resistant cultivars and will famously grow nearly anywhere. We’ll at least have beer.
Growing up in the Salad Bar of the Nation, though, it’s a profoundly unnerving change coming over us right now. No one really has any clear idea of what to do about it, either; we’re still in the Water Wars stage of disbelief. That list of luscious fruits two paragraphs back really does grow here, in normal times, in the rich old sea bottom between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I never even got started on the vegetables, or the non-food crops. And do you know, Dear Readers, how many cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry California produces? What do you suppose they eat?
Kage, historian that she was, watched the steady conversion of California farmland into laundromats and 7-11s with growing horror. She fought against it in every way a voter can; and more, when she could manage it. There are several thousands of acres in the Santa Monica Mountains and along the Central Coast that she fought (successfully!) to save from developers when she was young and limber. She was just starting to worry about climate change when she died, alarmed by clues in the Martian climate and the unprecedented warming over the last 200 years.
Her main worry was still sea level rising: we lived 2 blocks from the sea then. We had watched the Pacific clawing at the coast our entire lives, and seen many beaches, headlands and sea walls utterly defeated by the patient waves. In the winter storms, you could feel the heart beat of the sea in the walls of our house. It was one of the reasons we had moved uphill and on to the beginning swell of the sea hills; Kage figured we wouldn’t lose our grip during her lifetime. And in that, of course, she was right.
I don’t worry too much about that now. I’m far enough inland that the rising seas will only improve the ocean breezes and cooling fogs we get here, 20 miles inland. Century City and downtown may have towers rising from new bays, but here on the edge of Griffith Park we’ll just have a good view and an influx of sea gulls.
So my main concerns for future Springs are for the heat, and the vegetation. I don’t really want to trade the oaks for Joshua trees. I like fresh fruits and vegetables. And I miss the rain … but Spring is a time of change and growth. There are certainly mysteries and new changes ahead of us now.
I wonder what they’ll be?