Drought is in the news so often that the word has lost much of its power to truly shock people—unless they’re in one. I’ve lived in Oregon’s Willamette Valley all my life, and dry isn’t something we have very often—rain has traditionally grabbed the headlines. After a while everyone knew “it” rained here ten months out of the year. Oregonians warned newcomers not to ride their bikes during the winter, lest they fall off and drown.
As this summer winds down, we’ve received less than half of our so-called normal rainfall to date. Following dry seasons the past several years, we’re now hearing another word: trend. If you follow the weather channels, you know about the devastating wildfires that have burned vast areas here and in our neighbor, Washington state. The list goes on, of course. Today, when I looked at the extended forecast for the balance of September, I quickly saw that warm and dry are predicted to continue until October.
You don’t hear rain jokes any more.
Outwardly, the drought hasn’t affected the black-tailed deer that rely on our yard (and garden, when we forget to shut the gate) for a portion of their food, and water, but I don’t witness nature with a naturalist’s eyes—what am I missing? What of the birds who frequent our feeders? And the new generation of gray squirrels? There’s the start of another long and sobering list.
If I could chose only one sign to remember this parched summer by, it would be the brown dead leaves that are prematurely carpeting the ground. These specimens have been hurt. Bruised by the heat, sapped of all moisture. And as I was attracted to them as subjects for my camera, I found this one, with a tiny bird’s feather attached, and was reminded how they are connected to those deer and birds and squirrels (and on and on, microscopically).
There’s a word for that, too. Breathtaking.
The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men.