Sow There! Looking for bright spots in the haze, Nov. 23, 2018

Daisies at the Patrick Ranch last week appeared unaffected by the smoke from the Camp Fire. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)
November 23, 2018 

I remember a day when it did not rain. This was in October, last month, which now seems like a distant memory.

I was in my classroom and a friendly face peeked through the doorway to say we’d have rainy day recess.

I must admit, I panicked. I had been with my class for several weeks, but had not yet prepared for a rainy day recess. I knew where the indoor games were located. In fact, they were hidden under a table, carefully covered by a lace tablecloth. Behind the cloth barricade were dominoes and board games, marbles and card games.

If a child was locked indoors for hours, that little corner could provide hours of fun, and a huge mess.

A 20-minute rainy day recess is cause for game frustration. Twenty minutes means 10 minutes to spread the game all over the floor, seven minutes to play and eight minutes of my voice asking children to put the games away.

I had not prepared for rainy day recess. I should have chosen four easy activities that would be quick to pull out, fun to play and lightning fast to clear away.

Rainy day recess? Could I convince the children to draw at their desks? Could I lead a rousing game of hangman on the chalkboard? Could we play vocabulary charades?

The children were excited about rainy day recess. They had peeked into the game corner. They knew they would find marbles and puzzles, interesting rubbery bands that could be used to launch projectiles. I think I was the only one who had vocabulary charades on her mind.

Luckily, the rain was really just a mist, which became fog, which became just dandy weather for children to go outside to play.

Believe me, I’ve spent some time since then deciding what remained in the rainy day game stash.

I have also spent some time wishing that it had rained that day. I wish it had rained hard and continued raining through Halloween and well into November.

Wishing for wet

For weeks and weeks, I waited for that first drizzle on my windshield. I watered the potted plants on my porch. I theorized about how long the clumps of grass could go without water before I could no longer call that area a “lawn.” I worried about my gardenia and fig tree, but never worried about 10,000 homes and the loss of life too onerous to quantify.

Before the fires swept through the area I had planned to write a long rant about the lack of rain. I was harvesting ripe tomatoes in November. My students were wearing shorts to school when they should have been tracking mud onto clean linoleum.

My potted plants were in trouble, and now we know that all of Northern California was in trouble.

Then everyone in the world knew we were in trouble.

And now the rain.

Water can’t wash away our collective sorrow, nor the memories of what was lost, but they may stop the spread of more destruction. Maybe some of those firefighters can return home and spend time with their families. Toxicants in the air will wash out to sea, bits of destroyed lives will become diffused.

There’s more to say about all of that — much more. But we need to take each day at a time.

Plants and smoke

This is a column about gardening, and I did spend a few minutes thinking about plants this week. I wondered if the smoke in the air, so harmful to our respiratory systems, could also damage plants.

Our plants are fine. Because plants use carbon dioxide, the smoke provides all that sugar-boosting stuff plants need.

Last weekend I was at the Patrick Ranch along the Midway. The daisies looked just fine. The haze from the sky sent a gentle light over the colorful petals. Life, sometimes in beautiful forms, goes on. I’m looking for bright spots these days.

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