I don’t do much with my lawn on the Oregon Coast. I don’t take steps that would result in fine grass, perfectly manicured and green. My lawn is a patch of coarse weeds kept in check by a mower. Every so often, the moles visit, and it appears to be fighting a bad case of acne. And yet… I recently looked out my window, only to stare at this lawn, which was a gorgeous shade of green. It had just been mowed and wasn’t looking too bad. That’s when a funny thought occurred to me. I never water it. Ever. It was the first time I’d had such a thought.
For the record, I moved to Oregon in 1976—after my parents divorced—and ended up staying twelve years, before heading to Seattle to attend graduate school. Some years later, I moved back part-time. This particular lawn has been my responsibility for nearly 17 years.
I was actually driving to Oregon when a phone message from the Padre Dam Municipal Water District in East San Diego County blasted through a cord attached to my iPhone, into my car speakers, ultimately interrupting my playlist. It detailed the new mandatory watering schedule due to drought level 2 water use restrictions. Even number addresses will water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, odd numbers on Thursdays and Sundays. The next ultimatum: water no more than 10 minutes per watering station per watering day (in the city of San Diego people are restricted to 5 minutes per watering station per watering day).
A few years back, I took steps to minimize my watering by putting in a xeriscape garden. I found a landscape designer who helped me choose plants like rosemary, lavender, Mexican sage, butterfly bush, and daylilies to create gardens in my two yards. They remain works in progress. I don’t always get around to pruning and weeding right away. Skunks, raccoons, and gophers are prone to barreling into beds in search of goodies. Still, I’ve become attached to my plants and their regular blooms. I dream about how these gardens will look once they are truly manicured (which, of course, has to be an ongoing process).
In any event, when the message ended, and music resumed playing, I found myself thinking about how this new watering schedule would curtail the old one considerably. I’d set my timer based on the recommendations of my landscaper. I’d even brought the time down when a sprinkler repairman suggested I was overwatering in places. Now I wondered how many plants would survive this latest reduction. I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake in putting the garden in; though my intention had been to avoid a lawn—all the time and water it would have taken to keep it looking good.
I couldn’t do much about the new edict until I returned, so I tried not to think about any of these points as I meditated on green everything, everywhere in Oregon. I now see this was a passive aggressive form of mourning.
I still don’t know how many plants I will lose this summer. Yet I have reached some sense of acceptance. Dying plants can be replaced by varieties requiring less water. I have also begun to use a bucket to catch my shower water as I’m waiting for it to warm up—a suggestion that has been broadcasted loudly in San Diego County of late. I find this morning ritual rather sweet. After I shower and dress, I take the bucket outside to search for the thirstiest looking green things. I am hoping to hold on to my favorites.