Let’s give thanks for … moisture

Scott Swanson

As Thanksgiving closes in, now seems like a good time to mention one thing for which we all should be grateful: rain.

OK, we know that most local residents don’t get overly concerned when the skies dry up and we get week after week of sunny days.

“The rain will come,” they say, with resigned confidence, as we apply sunscreen.

After 10 years in the verdant climes of the Willamette Valley, maybe I’m still recovering from more years south of the border than I’d like to remember. I do view extensive dry periods with some alarm.

I once lived in Southern California, where dry-ness is the norm and where residents, whose numbers keep swelling, live in a state of apparent naiveté regarding the realities of where their water comes from (Northern California). They merrily water their well-appointed yards and fill their swimming pools – sometimes even after the governor has proclaimed a drought and resulting water usage restrictions. They just pay the price.

For a boy from Oregon, though, getting a total of 4.42 inches of rain during the rainy season of 2001-02 was not pleasant. Two or three brief storms, which is all that came through, weren’t close to enough.

Of course, a couple of years later, they got what turned out to be the wettest water year since the 1800s (a Willamette Valley-esque 37¼ inches) but our family moved here halfway through that – just in time to miss 2006-07, which was the driest year in recorded history: three-quarters of what they got in 2001-02 – 3.21 inches.

I joke that you can tell who the displaced Oregonians are in SoCal. They’re the ones who, when it does rain, are dancing in the parking lot or on the sidewalks with their arms outstretched and faces turned upward.

I’m relating this because it might explain why I value water. Yeah, it’s a little tiring to have day after day of drizzle, interspersed with some downpours. But it’s water, folks, and water is life.

Weather definitely impacts our lives, so that’s why we report on it: drought, floods, heat waves, etc.

One month ago, give or take a couple of days, we published a story about how low the local lakes were. We watched trees die all over Sweet Home. Our local firefighters seemed to take their vigilance to a new level – speeding to the scene at the slightest tendril of smoke.

An Oregon Department of Forestry statement earlier this week described this summer’s weather as “a witches’ brew of drought, hot weather and dry lightning (that) spawned more than 2,000 wildfires across Oregon, (which) consumed some 631,000 acres of forest and rangeland.”

Five weeks ago, we were right in the middle of that. Forecasters were ambivalent about our chances of significant precipitation and, after those California experiences, I prayed it would not happen. True, that would be highly unusual in these parts, but rain is not guaranteed, folks – even here.

Weather’s important. Rising temperatures contribute to drought, insect outbreaks, health crises (particularly in cities), increased wildfires, declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, etc. Colder periods produce rising sea levels, changes in animal behavior (more polar bears), etc.

Well, it appears we’re being spared a drought and since I’m not superstitious, I’m just going to say that. It’s something we should recognize and appreciate. A month ago we had 16.07 inches of precipitation – over nearly 10 months in 2015. As of the beginning of this week, we have 25.03 inches – nine inches of rain in five weeks.

So are we thankful? We should be, even though it’s inconvenient to trudge (or sprint) across the parking lot through a downpour to the car or pick our way across the ice. This rain means we are off to a good start to revived forest health, filling lakes, running streams, and reasons to stay indoors and further strengthen our family ties.

Though I realize that not all our readers may attribute this and other blessings we enjoy to God, I certainly do and I note there are dozens of Bible passages that substantiate this connection.

Here’s one that seems particularly appropriate and pertinent to where we find ourselves now:

“Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving … Who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains.” (Psalm 147:7-8)

May you have a joyous and memorable Thanksgiving!