Surviving the 2011 Texas drought

Out of curiosity, I went back through Yesterday's Papers and discovered that if I posted at all in the summer, it was about record breaking heat.  Summer 2010 was killer in many ways, including record heat, but I wasn't posting much. 2009 heat links here, here, and here. 2008 here and here. An unusually wet 2007, and a hot 2006.

This year's heat put us in extreme drought. Wildlife get desperate and vicious looking for food and water. There's nothing out there.

Varmints get hit hard. The heat kills smaller animals like birds and squirrels outright. Raccoons, coyotes, opossums and other furry and feral critters bring bumper crops of fleas and sometimes rabies right to your back door. Cool woodpiles, houses, sheds are hideouts for rattlesnakes, scorpions and spiders as well.

Raccoons are fun to watch but disastrously destructive. They can rip the siding off a house, get in the attic and shut you down, kill any smaller critter. Screen doors are no problemo for them.

Dozens of brush fires flare daily across Texas. Several of them nearby. Walked across the yard tonight and the grass was crunchy.

My aging body doesn't do well with this much heat for this long, not to mention higher utility costs. Poor Linus came in one night looking like he was loaded on something, falling over, eyes all weird, forgetting what he was doing. Most likely chomped on a toad. They're attracted by A/C runoff water, any place that might be damp.

Some friends lost a dog to a rattlesnake this week, even with a dose of antivenin. Dog -> Jack Russell terrier-sized. Rattler -> 5 feet long, with a 10 button rattle. No contest.

I've been entertaining a lot of "what ifs." What if the drought doesn't break? What if we are SOL? Drought is a constant way of life in many countries around the world. What if I were a mother in a land with no water? I can hardly imagine it. Staggering numbers of people, mostly children dying of famine. Apart from the humanitarian aspect, simply physically enduring that extreme environment is incomprehensible.

So what can I do about it?

  • Can't take water to Africa, but I can help trap and neuter some of our feral cats and take them out to our friends' now dogless farm to keep the vermin under control. 
  • Relocate the 2 adult and 5 baby raccoons waaaaaay outta town. 
  • Use as little water as possible. 
  • Set the thermostat a couple of degrees warmer. 
  • All the little conservation tricks and habits of four decades. 
  • Pay attention to how far off the path we are. 
  • Look for solutions instead of aggregating wealth and power. 
  • Individually and collectively. 
  • Reward innovation. 
  • Allow change to happen. 
  • Educate.
  • Drink a quart of water before going out. 
  • Wear sunscreen, long sleeves, UV resistant clothing and eye shades. 
  • Remember that the sun is brutal mid-day, but the temperature peaks later. 
  • Keep animals indoors or in total shade with plenty of water and food. 
  • Don't leave ANYTHING living or meltable in a car, especially people and pets. 
  • Keep a gallon of drinkable water in the car, plus refillable bottle.
  • Talk to people.
  • Read the science and read some more.
  • Protect your children. Get them UV resistant bathing suits and hats--don't rely on sunscreen alone. 
  • Read this.
What would you add?


Writing. Sit down and do it.

Writing notebooks dating from the '60's. Write your stuff when, where, how you can. Ask for help when you need it. Keep reading and learning. Seek out other writers who are close to your path. The I Ching says it furthers to find a great teacher. You will find many. Practice Makes Possible.

These are just the poems and stories that made it to a word processor. There are stacks and stacks of handwritten queries, words, phrases, scribbled on the backs of concert posters, envelopes, spiral-bounds, ticket stubs, receipts, anything that will take graphite or ink. It's my compost heap.

I am a Procrastinator. If I can do it, anyone can. You can grow your own process.

Writing. Boston to Austin.

Downtown Boston looking pretty good. View of the recently renovated green over the tunnel.

This is about writing. Overcoming whatever obstacles to get the words down. Simply playing with words. Using them as building materials to tell your stories. That's it.

In several writing classes, I've noticed that a lot of folks have trouble getting started. I do too, sometimes. The trick is to go with the ebb and flow, you write what you can when you can.

Came across the best advice for parents of children who write. Outstanding for the inner child, as well. If we all treated ourselves this way, we could actually change something. And then write some more.

My writing ebbs and flows. I sometimes resist it. Fear rushes in where fools dare to tread. To mangle a metaphor. I keep writing. That's all that matters.

I came across a notebook from a La Zona Rosa workshop with Rosemary Daniell dated 1.27.07. The prompt was "You can no longer deny..." I wrote of my frustration with not finding/making more time to write my own stuff. Also blogged about it. I was paid to write, edit, et al, all day. Academorporate Speak. I had a bad taste in my mouth, writerly-wise. The upshot is that the act of sitting down, focusing, and knocking out anything AT FREAKING ALL about my own resistance to sitting down and writing something that was important to me, and how I came up with ideas to work through my tendency to procrastinate, was pretty danged awesome.

Four years later, I am refreshed by the fact that I've been actively writing for decade after decade. I find that it's a little easier finding a few moments to just get some of that stuff down that's bouncing around in my head, even if it's only red ink in a composition book. Give your Future Self the gift of You Right Now. You never know what blinding insights you'll receive from Your Very Own Self.

Tell your stories. No matter who does or does not read them. That's the Connection.


Boston to Austin, aka Retirement Month Nine/Ten

Shenandoah Valley. From Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There's an Eastern Bluebird trilling in the trees on the right.

What a ride. Six and a half days. Fly north, drive south. Excellent adventure. Well, after a crappy American Airlines experience. Sister is taking care of that. I was just along for the ride. Once we got to Boston, the rest of the trip was amazing. 

Things I learned:
  • Take nothing for granted. Double check everything. When your sister thinks you should do something, like, I dunno, check in on-line the day before...do it. Without question.
  • There's sometimes a fine line between inner repose and system shutdown. The trick is to trust your instinct and choose the healthy step.
  • It's a good thing to be with friends when loved ones are lost, and at the same time, celebrate their lives. Celebrate all beginnings and endings.
  • It's also a good thing to be with friends with new babies! Always!
  • Compassion is a great healer for everyone involved.
  • Nothing soothes a drought-dried soul like wet earth and green, growing things.
  • Hog maw and creamed chicken on waffles are acceptable breakfast, lunch, or dinner fare in some parts. 
Electronic devices on hand: 1 laptop, 2 iPads, 1 iPhone, 1 iPad Touch, 1 Blackberry, & 2 non-smart cell phones. It was so relaxing to get away from the grid for a while...well, after a last round of Plants vs. Zombies. For the night. Or checking e-mail. Or Facebook (for me--other 2 abhor Facebook).

It will be a year come August 31 that I retired. It's been the most jam-packed year yet. Overflowing with fear, joy, gratitude, fun, progress, growth, sorrow, understanding, revelation, pain, pleasure, failure, success, contraction and expansion, and ripping adventure. Who could ask for anything more?