The Midwest vs. California: My discovery of a world with moisture
The land of the midwest is visually similar to the people who attempt to tame it: browned and dried by the sun, well worn and tough; the landscape persists, not prospers. The surviving plant life in Oklahoma cannot escape death with vigor and ease, but strain. Plants and animals here, through many points in the year, are close to death. The major factor which brings about such circumstances is drought.
The water throughout the great prairie comes in spring almost exclusively with angry storms and strong winds which, in itself, are deadly. The only method of survival is to eek out a methodology to save every molecule of that beautiful resource. Adaptation becomes focused almost exclusively to water retention. Everything pushes towards water control: from leaves of grass, to animals and insects, even farmers, up to entire cities. Around the midwest, plants have not only the winter dormancy, but summer as well.
This land is a war zone for the resource of water, and no organism is left out of the fight, unless they are to die off. Land is shaped by this lack of water. Thick, waxy cuticles cover leaves retain water vapor. Tightly controlled stomata, which act as barriers to exchange water for carbon dioxide on the back of a leaf, work rapidly to close quickly when temperatures climb too high.
I suppose this was the most difficult concept for me to shed when I moved to Northern California.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by lush trees and underbrush. Droplets of water seeped through canopies of Sitka spruce to tan oak shrubs below, even in August (a time when much of Oklahoma was engulfed in flames). Seeing a fern in the natural environment was as shocking for me as the size of the giant coastal redwoods.
Sword ferns brushed against my face as I walked though those forests, a sight I usually associated with the Jurassic era. Moss covered every inch of trunk of these gigantic trees. Everywhere was the constant sound: a dripping or flowing of water.
Without such barriers, plants grew unconstrained. It seemed with out the constant threat of drought there, genetic variation could occur in new and surprising directions. These plants would not be constrained by drought, with their 80 inches of rainfall per year. Genetic mutation could be occur in multiple veins, unhindered by the drought caused death. This created a series of oddities that were direct clash entirely to the flat, small, and wounded landscape I became accustomed to in my youth in Oklahoma.