When the first rains fall in California,
As the winter is drawing near,
It is a welcome sight.
The earth is parched and dry
From months of drought
And absorbs the wet greedily,
Like a sponge might do.
People thrill to the feel of raindrops
And walk in it without an umbrella.
We rejoice that our plants and trees
And gardens will grow without the aid
Of a garden hose or sprinklers.
We sleep to the patter of raindrops
And it’s a soothing, welcome sound.
The streets are washed clean and
The city is reborn.
But the rains continue. Gutters overflow.
Streets become flooded as sewers cannot compete
With the onslaught of water and debris.
The intersections are deep in water,
Looking like a misplaced fishpond.
Cars are stranded in the middle
And drivers must be rescued.
The arroyos become raging rivers.
Incautious boys and men climb down to look closer
And are sometimes victims of their curiosity.
The firemen rush valiantly to save them.
We shake our heads and wonder –
How anyone could be so foolish?
Yet every year, the rains come
And someone climbs down into the wash
To take a closer look.
Now the mudslides begin.
Elegant houses perched on hillsides
Fall victim to the falling, sliding earth.
And we wonder why anyone
Would buy a house on the side of a mountain?
Because someone built it there-
You thought it was safe?
And we wonder, and ask ourselves
How is it that
The rains invariably follow a fire
And the land has been made barren
By the blaze.
And if your roof has a leak somewhere,
Now it becomes evident.
You know which houses have leaks; those
Are the ones with blue tarps on top.
Some of the supermarkets have leaking roofs too;
Those are the ones with buckets strategically placed
Throughout the store.
Soon it will stop, we think.
But the rains continue.
Now (if we have them) we dig out
umbrellas, parkas, rubber boots.
Now there are freeway accidents
By the hundreds.
Californians do not know
How to drive in the rain.
Not even if they are from somewhere else.
The TV Evening News bombards us with
Reports of multiple car accidents and fatalities.
And still the rains fall.
“El Nino” says the weatherman wisely.
As if it makes a difference.
And then one day you awaken
To find the sun is shining.
A new drought is beginning.
Sandra Lee Smith
Previously written April 2008