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Inside and Out: An Unpopular View?

by Steve Harrison

I love my grass. I hesitate saying that. Of course, I mean the green stuff that surrounds my home and was part of the California dream for decades. Since learning of the draconian cuts imposed by an undeniable drought, I have been fretting over little else than the future and untimely death of my landscape.

I love my grass and my roses and the rest of my yard that probably wasn’t a smart choice when we laid out the landscape’s future 20 years ago. I don’t consider myself a tree-hugger; but each time we have had to cut one down, I’ve mourned its loss. The big wind of a couple of months ago took our oak, nursed from an acorn, that provided a wonderful green camouflage of the neighbors to our north.

During the pandemic, our yard was a sanctuary, and a calming view, allowing us to believe that everything would be okay. Cucamonga Peak, Baldy, the view of pepper trees, sycamores, and yuccas reminded us that this, too, shall pass and nature’s bounty would still be here — and hopefully I would be, too.

When we bought this house 20 years ago, it was only a plot of dirt, once owned by Pomona College, and a developer’s idea drawn on a sheet of paper. The slopes were a worry from the beginning. What to plant? How stable and safe from erosion? How would we pay for maintenance? I tried to see if there was a way to deed some of the area back to the city; but why would they want it when they have someone willing to pay its maintenance? The slopes have continued to be a source of some fretting over the time we have been here: yearly letters from the county about weed abatement, concern over dead spots, weeds, the snakes, squirrels, and rabbits that look at our yard as a giant salad bar. And, of course, there have been summer water bills that each year would have once bought a Volkswagen bug.

I feel guilty complaining. I know there is a drought. I know we all have to conserve. But there lies the rub. Eight minutes per station per week is not going to keep much alive. It certainly isn’t going to allow a new planting plan enough sustenance to get established. My worry is now on overdrive. So being a good citizen, I surely have no choice but to give up my grass. I will resist mightily letting the slopes and flower beds wither. What about wildfire’s threat or decreased property values? As go Claraboya, Padua, and Stone Canyon Preserve, so goes everyone’s equity.

I know there are things we can do. Giving up the grass will be the easiest. Water-wise plant choices another. But watching what we have created and nurtured die is not going to be easy. I’m not sure I can do it. And though I’m a good liberal, one of the things I value in our democracy is everyone being treated equally. So, when I hear that there won’t be restrictions on other Southern California cities also built in a desert, my blood boils. I feel selfish. I know my roses and grass won’t provide much solace if I go to my faucet for a refreshing glass of water, and there will be nary a drop to drink. Still, it’s hard to live through a paradigm shift. A lawn, a pool, a single-family home; trees providing a shady canopy for summer lemonade stands, all seem like a promise, part of the American and California dream that now seem about to evaporate like running in sprinklers. I may need the other kind of grass to cope.

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