Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter -- anywhere, anyone?

Yesterday evening, I thought that winter had finally arrived. The temperature fell, the wind rose, leaden clouds scudded -- as far as leaden clouds can scud, anyway. As I crept into bed I heard the pitter-pat of falling drops and I drifted off (aided by a nice glass of wine and a few pages of Doctor Zhivago) certain that at long last we would have some seasonal weather.

In today's pre-dawn, I looked outside. I saw stars above. The dust on the Land Rover showed no more than a random pattern of rivulets. Hoping still against the signs, I began the day.

Beautiful weather... but not winter. Chilly and clear today, blue skies. But not December.

Every year we start heating the house in mid-November. But this year the fires remain unlit; the woodpiles stand mocking.

We usually start pruning the trees in early December when they become dormant and drop their leaves. But this year, the leaves are still green, the sap is still running and the mangoes (which usually flower in April) are in bloom. So are the plumerias -- which should be nothing but skeletons.

Most of our rain falls in November and December. Last month, from an expected fifty-five millimetres, we got nineteen. So far this month has brought hardly any -- to Paphos, at least. A little has fallen in the mountains. But not enough. Not nearly enough. The dams are at the lowest level they have ever been.

What happens when an island runs out of water? When the rain doesn't fall and the snow doesn't lie, the dams don't recharge and the aquifers become contaminated with saltwater? What do the goats drink? How do the trees survive? What happens to agriculture? What happens to the fragile society of a culture that is still primarily rural, despite the last generation's giant leaps into the world of the tourism and services industries?

People will drink and wash and bathe with desalinated water (when the plants are finally built), or the government will arrange more expensive imports from Greece. The tourists will keep coming, and will take their two or three showers a day. Maybe the hoteliers will even apply enough pressure to keep the golf-course green.

I'm being a pessimist, I know. But I look out of the window to another spectacular sunset, see no hint of humidity on the horizon, and pray for stormy weather.

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