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Water From the Sky: A Post-Summer Primer

September 14th, 2018 by dk

If it weren’t for records being broken, most Americans would never think about history at all. Eugene just finished its longest rainless streak in a century on Monday. After nearly three months of uninterrupted sunshine, I thought we might need a primer on what we did without for 84 days.

If you felt water on your head earlier this week, it may not have been the result of a good workout. Heads can get wet without working up a sweat, under certain climate conditions. Also, windows sometimes must be closed and outdoor projects covered — because current conditions are conditional. They seldom stay the same for 84 days straight.

We sometimes refer to these changing conditions as “weather.” That’s what we got earlier this week. The clouds cried. The sky spigoted. It was like a waterfall, except the river came from nowhere. Everything turned dark and damp. It was magic.

We barely remember how to shuffle our feet against a mat before entering the house. We’ve been beating the dust off them instead. Except for metaphors, we haven’t considered mud for months.

Now we have to become reacquainted with windshield wipers and bicycle slickers. If the world looks darker than it should, you may have forgotten that you have tinted glasses balanced on your nose. Shins feel chilled? Dig out from your closet those trousers that touch your socks. We’ll all be switching now from sandals to shoes and then to boots. This year the muscle memory may not kick in quite so easily.

We’ll learn again about umbrellas, though we’ll still refuse to use them. We’d rather get wet than be caught carrying anything that looks so much like a weapon. As my friend Wes Burgess once scolded a friend who offered him an umbrella, “What? Am I sugar?” We’re not sugar, but those dry summer months sure were sweet.

It was a mixed blessing for those who care about their garden or their lawn, but we’re fortunate to live in a place where there is no shortage of water, even when it refuses to fall from the sky for a quarter of the year. As long as the winter snows continue to store a summer’s worth of moisture, our rivers and reservoirs will keep the faucets flowing.

I didn’t use sprinklers this year, so it gave me opportunity to learn about the roots of my plantings. I can almost map the underside of my vines and vegetation, based on their August colors. Those plants with deeper roots kept their green all summer. Anything shallow turned brittle. There may be a life lesson there.

Realtors and recruiters often tout a location for its liquidity. They are referring to financial resiliency. People want to move to where they can always find a better job or a bigger house. Businesses want an educated work force and room to expand. There’s always something greener on the other side of the fence.

Our liquidity is different, though green grass still applies. Our liquidity is actually liquid. It flows — out of our taps, through our cities, over our ledges. As the Baptists like to say, “We’re better because we’re wetter.”

Our dry spell is over now. Here comes another Oregon winter. Or, as they would describe it anywhere else, an endless string of dreary days where only the black of night provides any relief from relentless gray.

We’ll pull out the board games or the books we haven’t been reading. We’ll entertain ourselves indoors, if that’s what the weather requires. We’ll do something we do better here than anyplace I’ve ever lived. We’ll ponder — ponder the world and our place in it, ponder our plans for the next dry season, ponder the privilege we have to ponder.

It won’t be long before we’re hopping over puddles and dashing between sidewalk awnings. Since umbrellas are somehow beneath us, we cannot have them over us.

We enjoyed a summer with none of those complications, but our momentary naiveté will wash away soon enough. It was fun while it lasted. Being wet behind the ears felt good, after what must have been a good workout.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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