It’s winter; it’s supposed to be the rainy season; but it’s so dry that according to today’s San Francisco Chronicle, five Bay area counties have instituted outdoor burning. Not only have we had about half our normal rainfall so far this season, but the days have been sunny and the air has been drier than usual.

The soil in our garden is nearly as dry as it is in the summer time. When I water the broccoli and greens we have growing, the water quickly sinks out of sight. We try to water our garden with the clean run-off water from the shower, but the soil was so dry last week that the bucket of water from the shower was not enough for the broccoli; I had to fill up the bucket twice more from the hose.


Yesterday, I noticed that the Swiss chard and dandelion greens we had planted in the garden were wilting again. The soil was almost as dry as it gets in the summer time. I brought out a bucket of salvaged gray water, and gave them a long drink. Even though the rainy season has begun, the weather forecast for the next five days calls for sunny dry weather, so it looks like I’ll be doing more watering in the garden in the week ahead.


At lunch time, I drove down to the marshes at Baylands Nature Preserve. A baby American Avocet stood at the edge of the water swishing its tiny beak back and forth to gather insects and other invertebrates from the water, just like the adult avocets a few yards away. Out in deeper water, a Mallard hen watched carefully over two baby Mallards swimming on either side of her. I couldn’t help noticing the difference in the way the two species raise their young: the American Avocet is a precocial species whose young are on their own from hatching, while the Mallard is an altricial species whose adults care for their babies for some time. It seemed that everywhere I looked I saw birds nesting or getting ready to nest: Cliff Swallows building their nests of clay on the side of a building, Forster’s Terns apparently nesting on a tiny island in the middle of the marsh, Marsh Wrens warbling madly in the rushes.

I looked across the bay at the green hills of the East Bay. Except some of the lower hills at the far end of the Dumbarton Bridge don’t look all that green any more. It’s been warm for the past few days, and it looks like the rains are finally over and gone, and now some of the low hills are turning summer-brown. The higher hills and mountains are still brilliant green, but it won’t be long before they turn brown, too.

Baby birds and hills turning brown: these two markers in time are as good as any to mark the end of the winter-wet season, and the beginning of the summer-dry season.


Here in the Bay Area, we had two or three weeks of rainy, cool weather last month, and all the trees and flowers just sat there in their little plots of ground, waiting. Then it got warm, and all the trees and flowers started to release their pollen again. Except by that time they were behind schedule, and besides they were feeling cranky that they had had to wait so long to release their pollen (because after all the weather is supposed to be perfect here all the time, and even the trees and flowers get cranky when the weather isn’t perfect), and besides that we have had more rain than usual this year and all the plants are feeling frisky, and so the trees and flowers decided to double their pollen output. And my head is stuffed up, and I can’t breathe, and the over-the-counter allergy pills I take don’t work, and I feel even spacier than usual because my whole head is filled with pollen, not brains but pollen.

I can’t wait for summer when everything will dry out and all the plants will turn brown and wither and go dormant.


I was walking across the patio at the church this morning. Suddenly, smoke swept across the far side of the patio. Was someone burning brush? No, it wasn’t smoke — it didn’t smell like smoke, and it wasn’t blue — it must be dust. But the only way you’d get a dust cloud like that would be if it were very windy, and there was nothing more than a gentle breeze blowing.

Then I looked up. One of the trees in the patio, a non-native tree, some kind of European conifer, was releasing huge clouds of pollen, so much pollen that it looked like smoke.


It’s so green,
I said, as
we drove past
San Bruno
Mountain. Yes,
said Marsha,
enjoy it
while you can.

The rain came
and went. Light
rain, heavy
rain, no rain.
The water
rushes down
creeks to the
Bay. Then stops.

Months with no
rain, no rain
at all. Sun.
More sun. And
San Bruno
Mountain will
turn golden-
brown and dry.

It’s so green,
I said to
myself. I
admired it
for an in-
stant, then fo-
cused back on
the freeway.