Sow There! Feeling a change in the weather, and growing old, May 3, 2019

Feeling a change in the weather, and growing old | Sow There!

A flooded bike bath in lower Bidwell Park on April 6 in Chico. (Matt Bates — Enterprise-Record)
May 3, 2019 at 12:19 pm

I remember a trip to Disneyland with my Uncle Jimmy. I was 7, and my cousin and I bounced around in the back of the VW van. By “bounce,” I mean we weren’t wearing seat belts. On this particular trip, my uncle also pulled over to pick up a hitchhiker.

We chugged along slowly, singing Jim Croce songs, and coasting on diesel fumes down the backside of the Grapevine.

“Is it going to rain,” I asked, looking out the dusty windows as we neared the happiest place on earth.

“No,” my Uncle said. “The air is just really smoggy down here.”

Back then, we had leaded and unleaded gas. We didn’t worry about smog and its impact on childhood asthma. We were going places!

Starting in my 20s, I became more aware of the dire predictions for our planet. Scientists used computer models to discuss continued deterioration of obscure topics like the ozone layer and polar ice caps. Those graphs stretched out into the vast horizon of my future. I’d be ancient by the time we reached 2020 or 2030.

In my 20s, I saved my cans and bottles. Yet, part of the incentive is that I could get cash to pay for necessities like pizza.

Last week, we had temperature spikes into the 90s, just at the time our tender young plants were poking up from the surface of the soil. The garden gals at our school kept busy, watering the containers twice a day. It was too soon for heat like this. It’s only April.

Just a few weeks before the heat, we had a sudden downpour ( that caught a lot of folks off guard. I was still in my classroom when I noticed a sound like a fireman aiming a hose at the sidewalk.

The parking lot had started to flood. I knew from experience that if the drain was clogged with leaves, my car could become trapped. By the time I thought to move my car to higher ground, the rain felt like the downpours of Costa Rica and I had to wait for the nasty storm cell to leave town.

Flash floods. More extreme weather events. Extreme droughts. Frequent wildfires. These were the things scientists talked about when I was young, when my friends were smoking clove cigarettes and when motorcycle helmets were optional.

I could look back at those graphs from my youth to compare. Yet, I know this just doesn’t “feel right” in my bones.

Is there a seasonal rhythm that becomes imprinted upon our bodies? In spring, we feel like wearing sandals and cotton dresses. In November, our nostrils begin to tingle with cool, damp air and the chemicals of decaying leaves.

These recent weather events make me feel like I’m a tourist in my own land. I also feel protective of the tender plants in the school greenhouse. I wonder about the children who may never know early March the way it felt way back then.

Will atmospheric rivers and wildfires “feel” normal to young people when they are old like me?

The squiggly lines on a chart or graph predicting 2050 or 2070 likely appear to young people as they did to me in 1986 — a meaningless timeline along an endless plane of the unknown future.

My Dad follows the news from the NOAA observatory at Mauna Loa, Hawaii ( The predictions are for things to change so rapidly that young folks will feel rapid change as the status quo.

Another year around the sun

Of course, some of my recent thoughts may stem from my birthday – one of those milestone years. At this age, there’s less worry about paying for your next pizza, and more time to reflect on whether you recycled your share of pizza boxes.

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