HEAT AND DROUGHT
thoughts on ecology, childishness and the quality of mercy
I get depressed when the plants are hurting.
Even though I know on one level that I should be happy for the ecosystem.
Stress does it good.
Drought helps the important (and supposedly “delicate”) conservatives rub out some invasive weeds.
But how can I help agonizing over drought?! Everything wilts. Flower buds fall off; much turns brown; many rare animals may die, especially in isolated fragments.
My life is tied to the ecosystem. When it’s gasping for life, I’m desperate to help. Yet there’s nothing – totally nothing – I can do.
You can’t water hundreds of acres.
(Rain dances are not effective.)
You can’t even water the tens of acres where you broadcast rare seed last fall.
You can’t apply sun-screen – or give the plants shades.
I do carry water through the heat to newly planted plugs of some of the rarest conservatives that we can’t restore in any other way.
But it’s depressing too. What a waste of time! Or – not a waste? – just some very hard work that may be futile, but may work? I lugged water this year to plugs of lilies, prairie violet, prairie gentian – to tide them over.
I lugged water to white-fringed orchids, hoping to help them set seeds and build up the population, despite the drought. Drops in the bucket, or rather more like drops in a dry ocean – but it may keep them alive until rain.
Is there any fun? One phenomenon that is indeed plain old superficial fun
is to watch the deep-rooted plants thrive while the shallow-rooted wither Our current drought isn’t as “bad” as some. The prairie can turn as brown as death – yet with perfectly green and happy leadplants, prairie clovers and false indigos looking like no one ever told them there was a problem. The roots of some plants are so deep that they’re sucking moisture rainstorms long, long ago.
In the photo, we're early in a drought. Most species are still green, but most are also slowly dropping flowers, or holding back flowers that haven't opened. Yet, the deep-rooted compass plant (yellow flowers) thrives with deep-rooted pals, butterfly weed (orange) and leadplant (purple).
In some other season, conversely, many light rains in summer may favor the plants with upper-soil roots. In that cases, the deep-rooted ones may stress. That’s what diversity is for. Whatever the conditions, there are plants ready to take advantage.
My emotions are more about myself than about the ecosystem. When there’s thriving life and beauty, it’s like a message to me of hope, courage and confidence. Only a small part of my subconscious seems to be able to take the long view. I’m immature.
On the other hand, an ecosystem matures only through many cycles of unusual weather. Drought, flood, heat, cold, disease, grazing and browsing. Seasons of plenty and seasons of want. Beautiful, powerful and sustainable diversity results.