October 21, 2010

Wasting the Gift

It's a pet peeve of mine when natural resources are wasted. I don't mind so much when they are used wisely, but far too often they are just wasted.

Yesterday morning, I was walking my kids to school, when we passed a house where the sprinklers were on, watering a lawn that had just received a large amount of rain the evening before: well over half an inch, more than enough to quench any lawn's thirst. Under cloudy skies that signaled the possibility of more showers yet to come, my kids and I just stared at the water, running across the already saturated lawn and flowing into the street, and contemplated the absurdity of it.

Perhaps it wouldn't have been so absurd if we had water to spare, but we don't. If you look back at the photos I post on this blog (and keep in mind that I frequently choose photos that were taken near water or in the rainy season) you will quickly realize that this is a dry climate. Much of the water we use in our homes and on our lawns is imported from hundreds of miles away, from places like the Owens Valley (there used to be a lake there), Lake Mead (where the water level is at an all-time low) and the California Delta (which is one earthquake away from falling apart).

I will try not to judge the residents of that house too harshly. As a friend of mine said to me, it's likely that their gardener sets the sprinkler timer, and they don't even know how to operate it. Although we've had some days with drizzle and sprinkles, this is the first significant rain we've received here in Long Beach this year, so they certainly deserve some grace. The rainy season is just beginning.

A number of the houses we walk by in our community have gotten rid of their lawns, and replaced them with gardens of native plants, something I've mentioned here before. Over the past several months, my sons and I have noticed several houses that have covered their lawns with black plastic in an effort to kill the grass and weeds, which is often the first step to planting a native garden. What a wise way to preserve that precious resource, water! And it comes with the visual beauty of poppies and other native flowers, as well as the aroma of sage, one of the most wonderful scents on the planet.

One of those houses removed their black plastic this week, and we anxiously awaited to see what would happen next. Today we noticed that they had planted ... grass. My son's reaction: "Well, that sucks!" (This is the same son who, when he was just a toddler riding in a shopping cart at WalMart, asked in a loud voice: "Daddy, is this the 'yucky W' store?" I've got him trained well!)

Water is a precious gift from God, especially here in southern California. To waste it is an act of ingratitude toward God. Wasting water, letting it run into the street and down the storm drain, is like receiving a gift of precious pearls, then walking down the street, tossing the pearls into the gutter one by one. I can't imagine what the giver of that gift thinks about how the gift is wasted.

Photo of Lake Mead taken from Pacific Swell, the environmental blog of southern California Public Radio.

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