It’s Not Supposed to Rain in February


It’s only been the past 25 years or so where we’ve seen widespread use of the phrase “environmental sustainability.” I was a natural resource planner at the time that its popularity began to skyrocket. It seemed that suddenly everyone was inserting the “s” word into their writings, plans and presentations. The phrase successfully captured so much of the ideal that the environmental movement of the previous half-century had been striving for.

In the five years since Tropical Storm Irene shocked Vermont residents with a lesson in the realities of a warming planet, another word has found its way into the conversation. Resilience.

Beyond the ability to live in this world without depleting its natural capital, we are now faced with the challenge of living in a world where the ability to absorb disturbance and adapt to change will play increasingly significant roles, in both ecological and sociological contexts.

I ponder that concept as I look out my window today, observing the bare ground across a landscape that should be blanketed with snow.

In my grandfather’s day, sugar makers would be readying their buckets for the collection of sap from the maples, an annual ritual that most commonly got underway in early to mid-March. Times have changed. This year, some producers started making syrup in mid-January.

And then, there’s the rain. Since late December, the weekly cycle has been one that includes an inch or two of snow followed immediately by soaking rain and unusually warm temperatures.

A few days ago, the latest wave of wet passed through. Two inches of snow, then two inches of rain fell on our meadows in a 24-hour period. Unable to absorb the moisture into frozen ground, the waters flowed rapidly down the hillsides to the streams. A large section of our road was in the path of that flow. Whereas I’d been able to keep it mostly intact during Tropical Storm Irene back in 2011, the upper section of our narrow dirt road succumbed to this year’s winter rain.


Recovery is next, both for the road and for my state of mind. After the ground thaws and mud season has passed, I’ll shore things up until our dirt track is firm enough for the town road crews to deliver a few loads of crushed stone. I’ll point the ditches and grade the surface. In the scheme of things, the damage to our dirt road is relatively minor. It will soon be in good shape again, ready to withstand the next fluctuations of weather.

What I can’t predict, however, is how quickly I’ll recover.

It’s not supposed to rain in February.