Well, it's another strangely beautiful day in North Florida.
Usually, by this time of year, we're walking around saying things like, "It's not the temperature, it's the humidity," and then agreeing that actually, it's both that are making us so miserable. But this month, unlike every other month of May I've ever experienced in Florida (and that means more than forty-something), both the temperature and the humidity are extremely bearable. So much so that I have only run the AC two nights and that would be normal- for the middle of April, but it's so unusual for the tail-end of May that I can't even begin to comprehend it.
And this small miracle is wonderful, except for one thing- it's too weird. It is just too weird, folks. As we say around here sometimes, "It ain't right."
Add that to the fact that it hasn't rained enough to register since Feb. 11, and we are talking major strange.
I wake up every morning to the song of birds , covers pulled up to my ears, a sweet, chilly breeze blowing in through the window. When I get dressed, I choose long sleeves, a pair of jeans instead of shorts and a tank top because if I don't, I'm cold. And yes, I get cold easily, but our temperatures have been getting down into the sixties and even fifties! at night. Long sleeves required.
And it feels good. But it feels wrong, too.
As does the sight of the dogwood in my backyard that has died due to the drought. As does the sight of the lower branches of a live oak which has to be at least two hundred years old, going brown, it's leaves dying. My heart clutches at the thought of such profound dryness. I spend my days, moving a hose and sprinkler around, trying to keep my fruit trees, my flowers, my garden, my camellias and azaleas alive. No matter what window I look out of, I see trees and plants, drooping in drastic drought-inspired despair, which gives me a sense of panic and urgency. I can manage to keep the smaller things alive with this artificial watering, but let's face it- I can do nothing to keep a two-hundred year old live oak alive.
I feel such despair. People have lived on this property for at least a hundred and fifty years. Probably far longer. And under their stewardship, the trees flourished, spreading their great green limbs across the sky, giving shelter to far more creatures than I'll ever know. And they are threatened, the trees and creatures, both.
When I run the sprinkler, the birds come to revel in the falling water. Ants have invaded my kitchen looking for moisture. I find snakes up near the house, trying, I'm sure, to find water. And my outside cat's water bowls are empty every morning and often contain the perfect muddy prints of the raccoons who have come to drink there.
Dry, dry, dry as dust and dust is what coats our skin, our clothes, my floors and stairs and shelves and our mucus membranes, too. Sifty, powdery, black dust.
The birds sing, there are still green leaves, albeit drooping ones. The insects call at night, but the frogs have been silenced. They do not raise their voices in hopeful chorus when a passing cloud covers the sun. It seems they have given up on hope.
My next door neighbor is grateful that at least the mosquitoes aren't bad this year, but she doesn't understand that they are not unlike the canary in the coal mine. Like the cool weather, a lack of mosquitoes makes life here more pleasant, for sure. But if there are no mosquitoes, a lot of birds are going to go hungry. Probably frogs, too.
And again, it's just weird.
It's the end of May in North Florida. It's supposed to be hot, humid, and we're supposed to be getting regular downpours of water from the sky. Don't tell me global weather changes aren't real. I know they are. And I know it's going to get hot here soon.
What I don't know is if it'll ever rain again. Oh sure, it has to. But I feel like the frogs who have given up any real belief that it will. I know this is completely insane, but it keeps occurring to me that there's got to be SOMETHING I can do to make it rain. I have no idea what that would be and of course, in reality, there's nothing. I can't make it rain, I can't keep oak trees alive, I can't change the course of global weather changes. Not really.
I can hang my clothes on the line instead of using the dryer (hey! they're gonna get dry), I can use the right kind of light bulbs, I can go to town twice a week instead of four, I can quit buying crap they make in China and ship over here. I can eat as locally as possible. I can grow my own squash. If I water the garden, that is.
But I can't shake the feeling that no matter what I do, not matter how beautiful the day seems, there is something terribly wrong here.
There's a snake in paradise. And he is thirsty.