Sunday, May 2, 2010

Grey Soaking Rain

It's been a long time with some important moments - most notably Adam's high school graduation. We'll catch up soon. In the mean time, here's one I wrote in early May that's been cooling its heels until I could get back. - T.

This morning after dropping kids off at church, I headed back home to the one kiddo still bundled up in bed. In the course of the 15-minute drive, the sprinkling rain turned to a steady drizzle and the slate grey skies promised this was going to be one of those long, steady rains that you can settle deep into and pull snug around you.

Enjoying the rainy drive on our country lane, I tuned the radio to a folk station and drove right on past the house for a little while, looking over the fields that had already started to green up with our faltering spring, but that after this rain, will surely now come into their full splendor. In this dry northeastern Arizona region we have to water our fields and gardens most days to coax them along. It's after a good, steady rain, though, that you see the difference between what irrigation and nature's own watering will do. The thirsty trees and meadows respond to nature's rain with a lush show of gratitude - the leaves are broader, the wildflowers stand taller, the pastures plump and swell, rushing the fence lines with waves of verdant grasses.

When we lived in the city, rain didn't affect our day-to-day living much. It was a rare and welcome respite from the monotonous sunny days and heat, but about the only thing it affected was our level of caution on the freeways, where we'd encounter oil-slickened lanes and drivers who may or may not know how to drive in the rain. Beyond simply enjoying it, rain didn't figure large in our lives.

I love that in this life, rain matters. Not in the way it matters to everyone - bringing needed moisture and replenishment. No, I mean that here, in this life we're living now, rain affects how we think about and do things.

Like last summer, when the farmers had cut the hay in the fields surrounding our place, then it rained before they could bale it. I fretted and worried over that hay, knowing that rain on cut hay is about the most dreaded circumstance. It can rain right up until hay is cut all it wants. But rain when hay is on the ground waiting to be baled is the worst of luck. I had watched the old farmers toil over their hoes for hours on end, clearing the way for each tuft of alfalfa to get a good soaking. As the rain fell on the freshly cut hay, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach, worried the exhausting labor of those farmers would all be for naught, hoping the rain would stop and the sun would dry the piled hay in time, and feeling helpless to do anything that mattered. It's not a situation you can solve; you can only stand in the doorway and watch the rain fall.

Rain dictates our actions now. When we know the summer rains will likely hit around 3 each afternoon, we have to make sure we get our gardening done early in the day, because in the evening after it's rained, it isn't wise to tromp around in the fragile rows. Diseases and pests spread easily in a garden when wet soil is disturbed and tramped from row to row. The tenuous grasp of young root systems are easily torn away when rain-loosened soil is nudged.

It's good when, after a long week of weeding and planting or thinning, with work still left to be done, a pounding summer storm forces you out of the garden and provides a much needed break, reminding you that some things really can wait until tomorrow.

We have come to learn there are magical qualities in the warm, gentle falling rain that somehow better satisfies our fruiting vines than the cold, crisp water we bring up from the wells. While the roots draw on well water to strengthen the core, the rain gives the plants the chance to lift their leafy branches and feel the moisture directly on their skin.

Rain urges us outside when it's passed to renew our battle against encroaching weeds, promising the stubborn roots will yield more easily to our tugs against the softened earth.

It dictates when we clean the horses' corral, or don't. It causes me to wake slumbering children on dark summer nights, so they can sit at the window and watch the relentless flashing of a dramatic monsoon, lighting up the yard to nearly full daylight and shaking the old adobe walls with thunderous booms. It makes Mike's head shake in resignation when I beg him to jump in the truck with me to drive down to the bridge to see if the storms have the river churning in its bed with the increased flow.

Sometimes, that driving rain will keep the old farmers out of their fields and give their tired bones a chance to rest. Sometimes, the rain does the same for me.

These soaking rains drive the birds down from the skies to rest a while in the welcoming green fields around our house, so we get to look out our kitchen window to see flocks of these beautiful creatures just yards from our home.

I love these grey soaking rains, and the new patterns they've brought into our lives.

Love from the farm,

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