this blood will bleed us dry


Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe on January 3. This place should be BURIED in snow.

There’s a story often told about the Eskimos. In the dead of winter, when out hunting caribou, hunters plant blood-covered knives blade up in the snow around their camp at night. The blood on the knives attracts wolves who, rather than attack the camp as they would have, lick the blades excitedly, thus cutting their tongues. The wolves are so excited about the blood, however, that they ignore their pain and go on licking, not realizing that they’re drinking their own blood . . .

The truth is, this story isn’t true (Google it if you don’t believe me), but there’s a lot of truth in it — at least in parallel. I am thinking particularly of the drought in California.

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I love being outdoors. I love spring and summer and fall and winter, and all of the variety that comes with them. That’s one reason I’ve always loved living in Northern California — we have all four seasons. Or . . . at least we did.


Folsom Lake, near my home, when full

Since moving home from the humidity of Hong Kong a year and a half ago, I have seen fewer than ten of what I would call truly “rainy” days. A friend from Hong Kong visited me in August 2012, and her comment was, “So, it’s sunny EVERY day?” Yep. Yep, it is — at least in summer. But that hasn’t typically been the case in winter. I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. It gets cold here; it snows . . . At least it used to. The past two winters have been some of the driest in California history, and while the rest of the United States is locked in snow and ice, California is currently experiencing 70-degree temperatures. Sounds nice, right?

folsom now

Folsom Lake now — currently at about 20 percent of capacity


California’s reservoirs are drying up. It’s hills are kindling. It is one giant fire waiting to happen, and let’s not talk about our drinking water. My mom remembers bathing my brother and I in dirty water during a drought when we were babies. Do we think we’re beyond that happening again?

And that’s what slays me: The lack of concern I see from other Californians, and the envy I find in out-of-staters. Sure 70 degrees in January is nice (Lord knows it makes riding my bike easier), but at what cost? Everywhere near my apartment new houses are going up. Rich developers are putting in irrigation systems for landscaping along sidewalks and medians — an “aesthetic value.” What that amounts to, though, is thousands of gallons of water we don’t have being pumped into landscaping we don’t have to have. Have you ever seen a typical sprinkler system’s run-off?

And so here we are: Licking the wound that is bleeding us dry — and loving it. It’s a beautiful day. Yay! Does no one understand why each new sunny day makes me want to cry?


Images: Mine and Google


42 thoughts

  1. In Colorado, it’s like that as well, though this past summer there was more than enough water for some communities. It’s weird to me when in the midst of a drought, the meteorologists talk of rain as ‘bad news’.

    Folsom Lake looks pretty pathetic in your photo. Do the fish have a line to get wet?

    • Folsom Lake *is* pathetic right now. I call it Folsom Puddle — and I have no idea about the fish!

      And I agree with you about the oddity of calling rain “bad news” during a drought. Much of the water in Northern California has always been shipped to Southern California. Some of that water comes from reservoirs like Folsom. What happens when there really isn’t any water left?

      • It’s an unfortunate reality that humans are far more shortsighted than they would like to admit. Most of these water deals made their appearances when rain was abundant — and that would never change.

        A lot of our water is sold down stream as well (with a lot of it on the Western Slope going to Southern California, too).

        While no one wants to see lives lost, the rain here this past summer that displaced a lot of people was a godsend.

    • Haha, perhaps it should be. I’m actually becoming good friends with one of my local newspaper editors. We’re friends on facebook and everything. Maybe I should give him shout out. ;)

  2. so, is it the weather – need of water due to new developments – or ?
    i have a 15 acre lake next to the house and the Little Big Horn in the back yard – no one wants to live in Lodge Grass (thanks be to God who giveth to all men liberally) so – while I do not believe in global warming – I do believe that our planetary environments shift (doff my cap to ur blog title) as evidenced from our fossil record. Anyway – love and miss ya! oddly enough it is 58 degrees here in Montana today…

    • I blame the weather. No rain for months and months and even the best city planners are bound to be doomed. But it bothers me that I don’t see more about conservation when, in January, the hills are as dry and brown as they typically are in June…

      I don’t believe in global warming, either. Been thinking lately about those 40-year droughts and famines in the Bible… Can you imagine? I believe in all kinds of shifts (you know this), but… 58 in Lodge Grass? That is surprising, considering everything.

      Good to hear from you. I’ve missed you, too… Can’t wait to hear about Mongolia!

  3. Nothing as depressing as not being able to enjoy a sunny day, because the body (and Mother Earth) is craving a great rain. It is sad to see Tahoe and Folsom lake suffering from such a lack of snow/water…and hopefully a wet Feb-Apr will put things back to normal.

    Loved the analogy and story…

    • Thank you, Randy. I hate to be a pessimist, but right now I kind of am. We didn’t have a very wet winter last year, either, and I don’t expect any huge shifts in the weather this year any time soon. It’s sad and really does have me worried.

      I know you’re getting plenty of rain in Hong Kong! I miss thunderstorms.

      • Drought seems to bring out the pessimism… In Pendleton and Seattle/Pacific NW), I have witnessed extended droughts, and it freaked me out as well. I really became worried about the ‘what ifs’ and the nice thing about that is when the rains/snow come it is a great reason to celebrate for an extended period :-)

      • I guess I just miss the variety, too. I LOVE a rainy day. Sunshine every day without variation bores me to tears. That’s one thing I loved about Hong Kong — blazing hot one minute and pouring buckets the next. That *never* happens here!

      • Agree, nothing quite as nice as changes in seasons and weather… In HK, I am one of the few who gets a little excited when a typhoon arrives :-)

      • I always got excited about typhoons, too, Randall! In Hong Kong, they never seemed to do *too* much damage, so I didn’t feel bad about liking them. I love thunderstorms. :)

  4. Excellent article. It’s like people just don’t even care anymore. Maybe they think we’re past the point of no return as far as killing our planet, or at least keeping the planet sustainable for humans…

    • Thank you, Sreejit. Sometimes I feel like people just don’t think at all. I still feel blessed to have clean drinking and bathing water. I know it isn’t that way everywhere, and so it saddens me when I see so much going to waste here in the States…

  5. Hi Jess, praying rain for you guys on the west coast. The drought has been pretty severe with no signs of letting up. It seems the weather pattern has shifted, east coast has been flooded for the past 4 years! Let’s hope everything balances out soon. Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

  6. The weather is a funny thing. Sure, we can try to avoid “climate change” but really, we can never predict when or how long the next drought or torrential monsoon season is. Which is really unfortunate. I remember when I was a kid living in Malaysia, we had drought and water shortages. On some days, water supplies to our house were cut off and I had to shower using buckets of cold water that my mum had stocked up. As in your case, it was unpleasant.

    With drought, water prices go up too. I guess in these situations the best we can do is save water and hope this weather pattern passes. Last week in Melbourne we had 4 40’C (104-110F) plus days straight. Fortunately that passed :)

    • I heard about the heat wave in Australia. We had a little of that, too, this past summer. The Sacramento Valley is known for its scorching temperatures in summer. I hate it when it’s 100+ degrees out!

      And yes, it’s good to know someone else knows what it’s like to run out of water. Ice cold baths do not sound fun, but that is better than not having any water at all! I really am worried. Maybe I should begin stockpiling my own water supply?

      • When we’re back in Malaysia, my parents always make it a point to have at least 4 big jugs of mineral water in our house – in case our water gets cut off, we will still have something to drink. And unfiltered Malaysian tap water is, well, not that clean. Maybe you should start stocking up, nothing wrong with playing it safe :)

        When we shower with buckets, we get used to the cold after a while – it then becomes annoying to get enough water on ourselves to wash the shampoo out of our hair.

    • Did he really, Steve? I hadn’t heard the news. I sincerely doubt he drops by my blog, but it’s nice to know someone else has noticed the lack of rain. I hope he does something.

      Hope you have a great weekend, friend!!

      • It is terrible though when people take the easy instead of doing the difficult. Ignoring the fact that the west is having some major issues is probably the best way to make the record books for bad reasons.

        Hope people pitch in and do things to stop the waste. Rain would be better though!

      • Well when they start mandating water restrictions, people will *have* to pitch in and help. They won’t until then, though… I hope it does rain, but I’m not counting on it!

  7. Jess,

    I really liked the metaphor of the Eskimo story and the hapless wolf tongues. That is a perfect consequence from a lack of forethought, ethical behavior, and community. I could go into a long explanation of causes, but instead I want to add one more reason for our diverging climate other than humanity’s self-absorbed greed, if I may.

    Axial obliquity & Milankovitch — Serbian geophysicist and astronomer Milutin Milankovitch first described Earth’s axial tilt, precession, and eccentricity all collectively effect climate on Earth significantly at each of the extremes of these orbital and axial cycles. Here is the Wikipedia link to his widely accepted theory:

    These collective variations happen between 21,000 years to 70,000 years, even less frequently (slower) up to 100,000 years. We are currently nearing one of these extremes and as you might know, even a 2 – 2.5 degree change in the Earth’s orientation relative to the Sun and Moon will cause dramatic climate fluctuations, i.e. unseasonable droughts!

    Now that mankind knows and sometimes(?) understands these cosmic and terrestrial conditions, the more serious question is What is mankind going to COLLECTIVELY do about it?

    There is my 2-cents. ;)

  8. It is scary how our environment is changing globally. There was news of snow in Vietnam last year and hailing (for a very short while in Singapore recent years ago). Man or weather?

    • Hailing in Singapore? That *is* surprising! I’ve seen snow in North Vietnam, but that’s close to China so not surprising. It was very cold!

      I think it’s a little of both. Man impacts weather, but there is a lot that is out of our control, too. But who knows!

      Hope you’re having a good weekend, Sam!

      • Aging?! No way, Sam! I would swear you were my age except your daughters are maybe a little too old. Then again, I *did* think they looked like your sisters…

      • So kind of you Jessica but truth is truth :D Fact is I am old and I can feel it especially the last few months. Gonna take up some exercise and see if it works any magic, feeling very tired and unmotivated these days.

  9. I’m not sure I would want to live in an place with so much sun or at least I like living in an area with 4 distinctly different seasons.

    Alberta will get problems similar to California in a few decades. We’re landlocked and out in the prairies. About 130 km. south of the Canadian Rocky Mtns. Calgary is rolling on expanding out in the suburbs, but at a cost for infrastructure support systems.

    • Like I said, we used to get more rain. The foothills of the Sierra Nevadas have always had four distinct seasons — or, at least they used to. I’ve never liked the brutal heat of summer in the Sacramento Valley, though. That’s why this extremely dry winter has me worried!

      I think I’d like Alberta. I hope to visit someday, and sincerely hope you don’t end up with droughts like ours!

    • Oh, my goodness. That’s terrible, Subhan. Drought is a terrible thing. And I’m glad you liked the story about the wolves. It just kept coming to me, so I had to share it.

  10. the pic of the empty lake is actually from 1977… somewhat lower than it is today. Notice Folsom Lake Crossing isn’t in the pic, nor is all the construction on the new spillway.

    • Oops! Thanks for pointing that out, Max. I guess I jumped to conclusions when I saw the pic posted on facebook. To be honest, though, I flew over Lake Folsom yesterday, and except for the construction changes you mentioned, the lake looks about the same…

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