In the desert we learn to value every drop of moisture that comes our way. A shower here is like a surprise gift; a rainstorm seems nothing short of miraculous.
But you might imagine that our collective joy was dampened last winter when it started raining in November and then continued to rain. And rain. And rain. As lovely as it was to see so many verdant golf courses, it was dismaying to note that on many days these courses were too wet to be played. Sailed, yes, but not walked or driven.
Construction sites were shut down and draped with tarps. Restaurant patios were deserted, chairs tipped against tables to aid drainage. Tee times and court dates went unclaimed and it often seemed that some days it was easier to get a tan in a salon than by the pool.
OK, it wasn’t suddenly Seattle. There were still plenty of fabled sunny days. And while we celebrated the end of the drought with the rest of California, we were reserving a backup basket of jubilation for the bounty that was headed our way in the spring.
The consensus among those of us who either grew up here or have lived in the valley for decades is that this year brought blankets of flowers that hadn’t been seen since 2005. Other residents can’t recall a similar proliferation of petals since 1993, nearly a quarter of a century ago.
Photographer Tom Brewster would know. Tom came to the desert to work as a staff photographer for Desert Publications Inc. in 1977. In 1998, he shot his first wildflower story for Palm Springs Life, “Courtesy El Niño.” A couple weeks before the first flowers threatened to bloom this year, we commissioned Tom to go out and shoot to his heart’s content.
“2005 was the last wildflower story I shot and really the last good [wildflower season] before this,” he said. “The thinking then was to keep it local, but this year I definitely saw more.”
Tom’s search for wildflowers took him south to the Anza-Borrego Desert and north to Joshua Tree, from the lowest elevations in our valley to the mountains surrounding us. It’s OK if you didn’t make it out here last spring for the show; see his efforts here.
And who knows what this year will bring? The Climate Prediction Center in Maryland tells us that last year we actually experienced La Niña. They say that this year we will see the more traditional wet effects of El Niño.
But don’t trade in your golf cart for a canoe just yet. I promise you plenty of sunny days in the year ahead. And maybe even fields of wildflowers stretching to the horizon.