Life & Toes in Drought

current_ca_trd“What is that between my toes?” I wondered while stretched out on the sofa watching the big screen buffoon machine.

While the answer borders on TMI, it’s just another sign of the life and times in severe drought.

See this map? See the blood-red area of California along the coast? That’s where I live.  It’s Exceptional-droughtland. And less than a year ago, our local community water providers left Pollyanna-land, and informed us citizens that there was a huge likelihood of our wells going dry by late 2014.

The powers that be mandated that no more than 25 gallons of water per person per day. That began in the spring. And with no rain since—well, I just don’t remember when we last had a measurable amount of rain—this week’s headlines warned that sometime between October and December, our wells will be dry.

No more drawing water from our spigots for the roses, the trees, and the daisies. Non-potable water is available. But this requires hauling the water from designated wells/tanks into containers and then lugging the untreated water home. Truck owners strap 300-gallon tanks to their truck’s bed and queue up for the water along with the graciously retired who fill 5-gallon buckets carefully placed in the trunks of their Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Neighborhood English-style gardens of lavender, yellow, pink and white floral pallets, are now 50 shades of brown.

And, as a community, we have added to our recycling passion every single drip-drop of allotted water used in the home.

Toilet-flushing, plant-watering, floor-cleaning gold.

Showers, reduced to one-minute or less, with the water turned off while we suds, include a certain amount of physical coordination. No more water down the drain! That’s a valuable toilet-flushing, plant-watering, floor-scrubbing resource. You see, many of us have learned how to straddle a 5-gallon orange Home Depot bucket while we shower, letting excess water flow into the bucket.

Typical locals hoist their water-laden orange buckets into the garden in an effort to save the roses.

Local chiropractors and masseuses keep busy these days.

On the positive side, I installed energy-efficient, water saving appliances when I remodeled the house a few years back. So, if I run dishes and laundry on the short cycles, I use the least possible amount of water. Kind of like my one-minute shower. Yet, the recent discovery of something between my toes, probably has much in common with my dishes and laundry. But I’ll get back to that after a few more words about living in real-time drought.

On the negative side, some unpleasant dialogue between citizens about water solutions has sprouted like a fire hydrant after being struck and dismantled by an errant truck. The commonality, however, is the fact that most of us wash our hair less, use more masking deodorant and perfumes, and wish that each time we must flush our toilets, that waves of guilt did not overtake other life-pleasantries.

El Nino watches are like daily prayer rituals.

But it’s not just us people. Our back-breaking efforts to save our roses with leftover shower water? The deer thank us. As my garden area begins to resemble a fortress to keep the deer from leaping into the air to scale over the garden fence, these creatures are desperately hungry and thirsty. They have taken up near full-time residence in neighborhoods as opposed to the nearby forests. If it is green, they’ll pretty much eat it now. If my roses survive the drought, the soapy water, and the constant leaf-striping by local deer, I will bless every one of those rose thorned-pricks as a gift of life’s perseverance.

Deer feasting on neighbor's pyracantha
Deer feasting on neighbor’s pyracantha

All the wild critters are hungry and thirsty. Bobcats, bears, and mountain lions are willing to tolerate our human ways for just a drink of water or a bite of rose. Their home, the Monterey pine forests, are as dry as the desert in July. The once verdant pines have lost their green and turned to brown. Those are the lucky trees. Weakened, pests and bacteria are taking out at least a dozen such trees in my neighborhood. They stand tall with denuded gray limbs and trunks that beckon fire tempests.

Yesterday’s weekly weather forecast noted that this has been the warmest year on record here. Our normally chilly ocean is about five degrees warmer than usual. The salmon are bearing north in search of cooler waters, while exotic fish from Mexico’s warmer waters tease local anglers.

Meanwhile, I crave a long soak in my deep bathtub overflowing in luxurious, floral scented bubbles. I want to slowly, deliberately scrub my toes and feet. I want to run warm water over my hair and let it stream down my back. I want to stretch out in my tub with a refreshing drink at arm’s reach, candles burning, and maybe a cheap magazine article to read. But if I do, that’s three days worth of my personal water use.

And this is what fueled that nightmare discovery between my toes. I think the common description is “Toe jam (a) common non-medical term used to describe the ‘gunk’ that accumulates between the toes. It is a combination of dead skin cells, sock debris, dirt, body oil residue, fungus and bacteria…and is associated with poor hygiene.”

Toe jam? OMG! Perhaps, like wooly caterpillars, and migrating tarantulas, this is a sign of the return of normal rains this fall.

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