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A Bear of Winter
A drought worthy of the Mojave Desert has disrupted the lives of bears and Carol Arnold.

By Carol Arnold

Lately, I find myself feeling sorry for bears. Normally hibernating this time of year, they have been spotted wandering the ski slopes of the Sierras, or at least what are normally ski slopes, as there hasn't been enough snow to keep many of them open without the machine made variety. The bears are looking for food I am told, not a good sign. The only food that exists this time of year is usually relegated to people's garbage cans. The bears are confused and so am I.

I have lived in the Bay Area most of my life and I've never experienced a winter like this one. Even the worst drought of the mid-seventies doesn't compare, with its relatively abundant seven inches of rain. Contrast that with the three inches San Francisco got for all of last year. Three inches is less than the Mojave Desert gets, a place where creatures are adapted to scorched earth. In the rest of California, they are not.

Yes, we've had a few winter storms but not enough to allow coho salmon to spawn or black bears to dig a hole in the snow. There also hasn't been enough to make me happy. Unlike normal people who consider the winter sun something to celebrate, our dry weather has turned me into a curmudgeon, one who responds to "Isn't it a beautiful day?" with a grunt. Like the bears I long to hide out at least some part of winter. Curling up with a good book in front of a crackling fire is my idea of hibernating, and although I don't have a fireplace, I can at least pretend I do when rain pelts my window. I love the dark, brooding skies of what used to be winter. Nothing like a ceiling of charcoal clouds to make me smile.

I now understand why our ancestors prayed for rain. Like them, I want to think we humans have a little control over the weather.  Maybe we should all gather at Candlestick Park one last time and hold a giant rain dance. Even the sun lovers could come, if not for themselves, then for the bears.

With a Perspective, this is Carol Arnold.

Carol Arnold is an environmental planner. She lives in San Francisco.

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