Humans in the Mist

mountains rising above fog in the valley belowIn winter I wonder if it will ever stop; in summer I wonder when it will start. I’d like a little rain about now. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of water in the air. For the past several days the fog has come in at night, settled in valleys and over the Bay, keeping things cool and comfortable. But I know there are still weeks and months ahead when no rain will fall and even the fog will depart to the open ocean.

During these long hot days of summer, as streams run dry, a longing for water leads many of us to seek out the nearest pool. Just at the time no rains fall to settle in these gigantic holes we have so painstakingly dug, we need more and more water to fill them up. And we need more and more to keep our lawns green, keep our flowers blooming, wash off our perspiration, and keep our cars shiny.

Cleverly, we have devised many ways to capture the rain when it does fall, and we’ve learned to move it to where we want it. We build dams across rivers, fill reservoirs and perc ponds, and dig canals that go through mountains. So far–at least most of the time–things are working well–at least in California.

There’s no doubt that a few things have changed. Fish have departed from rivers now dammed to form artificial lakes. But we farm fish and restock lakes. Underground water levels have dropped and wells have run dry. But most of us no longer rely on wells for our water.

When faced with a challenge, we humans are resourceful at finding a solution. It will be interesting to see what we come up with next as more and more of us need more and more water. Will we learn to extract water from the briny deep or from the fog? Who needs fog anyway?

Well, redwood forests do. And so do banana slugs that live there. Ever notice how the redwood forests grow only where daily fog is common? Redwoods flourish and grow to proportions that astound us because they get plenty of water from fog drip, the water loss from their leaves reduced by misty shade.

But what if we transformed that fog into water? Couldn’t we use that water to put redwood trees wherever we wanted? I remember an article in a Sunset Magazine some years back about homeowners who had established a redwood grove in their backyard in the heart of Sacramento. Pipes ran up the trees and were automated to turn on a mist at night. We could each have our own private forest in our backyard and not have to worry about driving for an hour to Big Basin to picnic in the woods. What an idea!

So what have we got to lose? There would be no more dangerous night driving, no more mornings when you wish you had a sweater, no more misty moonlight, and no more really bizarre looking slugs. Who would miss the fog?

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