All night, I listened for the rain and, at last, heard the rumblings of far-off thunder like growling from the woods. Too far off, it was, for when I leapt from the sheets, raced to the window, and looked down, all I saw was dry. I realized through the half-slept and uneasy night, that it is not unlike keeping one ear out for a baby in another room or a child with fever down the hall.
We don’t sleep soundly when we worry about the blessed things whose watch we keep. And in the early fall, on dry, summer-like days, I keep a close watch on cracked and split earth and spend my mornings with a hose, pouring fluid onto dusty soil. I hear the hydrangea feigning dizziness from lack of drink. I hear the moaning of the phlox. Even the black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers, those hardy sun-baked assemblies, groan under strain of waiting for a break in the weather.
Making like a rain cloud, I wander here and there with snaking hose. That hose will never bring what heavens bring; it cannot make rain that’s rich in all the earth demands. You’ve never heard a little one exclaim, “Hey, I smell the hose.” Rain, on the other hand, has a fragrance all its own. “Smells like rain,” my grandma used to say. Young, I learned to recognize the heady scent of nearly bursting, water-laden clouds and then taught it to my own children.
Isn’t it remarkable how we depend on sky to do its job, how we hope for a long, slow sprinkling that bathes the rows that burst with cock-eyed promise of future blooms? The world becomes simple when you start each day inspecting the stalks that got to where they are because you tucked them there.
It is the mantle of the gardener to be the custodian of her plot of planet
earth. The growing things depend on you – and cloud and sun and wind and
soil – to tend to their needs. The fussy ones need fertilizers; the spineless
ones need stakes and twine; and, every once in a while, there’s the random
beetle that must be dispatched in short order.
The basics, though, are light and water. In a world where both essentials come mindlessly – with the crank of the faucet or the flick of a switch – we sometimes lose track of just how breathtaking both are. And, that is why I grow myself a garden. Those garden stems tucked in bottles all over the house bring me back to what matters deeply on this spinning globe and center me amid the daily storms of a hectic life.
So I wait for rain with an ear that strains to hear the pitter-patter, so that when it comes, I can run outside and drink in the elixir spilling from swollen clouds.
Copyright © 2008 Barbara Mahany. All rights reserved.