It’s raining again this afternoon. Off the top of my head, the last day it didn’t rain here was Christmas Eve. It rained every day for a week before that. Up till then, we’d been having a dry December; a dry fall, for that matter. It’s not unusual during our Decembers, Januarys and Februarys to get 10 or 11 or 12 or 14 wet days in a row. What seems a little unusual about the current one is how much rain we’ve gotten. As carefully but unofficially extracted from the UC Berkeley weather station data:

December 17: .41 inches

December 18: 2.33 [Berkeley Flood Terror]

December 19: .18

December 20: .15

December 21: .69

December 22: .81

December 23: .01

December 24 [Ark comes to rest, rainbow and dove appear, etc.]

December 25: .74

December 26: .35

December 27: .23

December 28: .61

December 29: .01

December 30: .94

December 31: 1.51

January 1: .47

January 2: .55

That’s a total of 10.07 inches in the last 17 days (not exceptional during the current storm cycle; my friend Pete told me about one location on the ridge to the west of the Napa Valley that may have gotten 30 inches for the month of December). The total today, Day 18, is .07. So far. The forecast for tomorrow. Dry.

The News from Equality

By way of Lydell, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press, news from Little Egypt:

“EQUALITY, Ill. — No major damage was reported after a minor earthquake shook areas around this small town in southern Illinois on Monday.

“The quake struck at 3:48 p.m. and registered magnitude 3.6, according to Rafael Abreu, a geologist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Denver. It was centered near Equality, which is about 120 miles southeast of St. Louis.

“Abreu said calls from people who felt tremors came from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, but the quake was unlikely to have caused any damage.

” ‘There might have been some rattling of objects, but not much more,’ Abreu said.

An earthquake in Southern Illinois? Not too shocking, if for no other reason than the greater Equality area is only 100 miles or so as the crow flies from New Madrid, Missouri, near the center of some of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history.

But Equality‘s another matter. Just the name: There’s got to be a story behind that. If a local school district page is to be believed, the town was known as Saline Lick. In the 1820s, the name was changed to honor the settlement’s French heritage; Equality refers to the Egalité of the French revolutionary motto. But neither the name nor the school’s Web page hints at the town’s historical notoriety: A local landowner, John Crenshaw (said in one article to be a grandson of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), is remembered for his part in a sort of reverse Underground Railroad. He and his many cohorts kidnapped free blacks in the north and sell them into slavery. Crenshaw also made a fortune from salt processing, an operation that depended on hundreds of “leased” slaves. (Yes — slavery in the Land of Lincoln; in fact, Lincoln is reported to have been Crenshaw’s guest during a visit to the area in 1840). A tangible piece of this legacy survives: Crenshaw’s place, now called the Old Slave House, still stands a few miles from Equality.

‘Otherwise Occupied’


This is what I mean: The New Year’s Eve jigsaw puzzle. Twenty-three by thirty-eight inches. Fifteen hundred pieces. Ridiculous similarities among pieces that don’t belong together. Well, maybe not ridiculous. But challenging! We’re about one-third done, meaning the first big accomplishment of 2006 is only days away.

About Average

It’s late. I’ve been otherwise occupied. But I knew this was out there, a haiku by the Japanese poet Issa, translated by Robert Hass.

“New Year’s Day–

everything is in blossom!

I feel about average.”