Water Is Music and Wealth

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Shirley Gutierrez (Peter Arcuni/KQED)

We don’t know exactly how climate change might affect the rain that is vital to California. And that's troubling to Shirley Gutierrez.

Every water droplet is a world. It’s a tiny miracle that refracts light, and it creates beautiful sounds as it falls. Water flowing is like music to me.

You have to know that I was born in San Francisco, and that I grew up here. Right before I was born, when I was in my eighth month of gestation, it was one of  the rainiest months in California history. So while I was in utero, it was raining like crazy all the time.

And when I was a child, the winters were very robust, very rich. It would start raining in November, and it would rain steadily and heavily for several months. Having rain, having that abundance of rain in my life when I was a kid, felt like wealth. It felt like richness and safety somehow. Like the order of things was correct.

I still long for that.


Now, the first experience I have of winter is the anxiety about whether we’re going to have one at all. I remember one time when I was driving home to Walnut Creek, and I looked over at the hills and the hills were the color of August. They were completely brown. And I had this bizarre mental slippage about what time of year it was, and I started to panic a little bit before I remembered that, "Yeah, it’s December. It’s December, and this is the time and this is the year, and you’re okay."

I haven’t yet found coping mechanisms that are adequate. But I also think it’s important to remember there are things we can do literally in our own backyards. Right now, we are trapping water in small ways and attempting to save it as much as we can. It could be just catching the shower water, or using our dishwater and putting that on plants or using it to water trees, or whatever.

The experience of water in ponds, lakes, streams, falling from the sky – all of that means life and renewal to me. And so saving it means promoting life to me. And that’s very very important.

Shirley Gutierrez is a freelance film and television editor in the Bay Area.