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A Garden for Drought

I am not one of those Midwest transports to Los Angeles that basks in the endless sun of summer (and fall and winter) and complains when the thermometer falls below 60. Though I remember the dire sadness of the 109th gray day in a row before spring, I need one every now and then. I love rain. More than that, I need rain. Of course, we all do, for physical survival, but I’m talking on a metaphysical level. Before the too-brief-but-oh-so-nice rain last week, I suffered physical cravings for rain. As the water finally fell from the sky, it filled the air with humidity and quenched my thirst, my pores, my hair, my spirit. Just as my garden, and all of our gardens, thickened with the life that only fresh rainwater can bring, so I felt a deep relief that comes from having weather in Los Angeles. I need more. Yesterday’s gray day was another nice respite from my reverse seasonal affect disorder.

The remarkable thing about these years of drought is that my garden survives. Despite my neglect and refusal (or forgetfulness) to water even once a month, it lives. It even flowers … during summer. I lost only one established plant this summer. The rest, a combination of California natives and Mediterranean adapted plants, have managed to hang in there. With a little planning and intentionally closing the loops in my garden and house, the garden gives back more than it takes. Graywater from the washing machine waters my fruit trees. The leaves are left as mulch to build healthy soil and conserve soil moisture. I use no chemicals. Ladybugs come find the aphids when there is a little outbreak. I have no lawn, and no need for power tools that create noise and use fossil fuels.

The garden gives shade, cooling the air outside and inside on hot summer days. We get fresh oranges from fall through spring, though they are quite a bit smaller this year. Grapes line the driveway fence between me and my neighbor’s house. And hummingbirds, butterflies, lizards, salamanders, skunks, squirrels, a possum or two and likely millions of insects inhabit every corner and crevice. For me, the garden gives respite from the stress of life. An hour in the hammock under the oak tree watching the dance of wind, leaves, birds and insects … and feeling the sun … and breathing the fresh air … leaves me whole and full. The garden gives life and beauty. The garden gives.