thirsty earth

by bam

all night, i listened for the rain. heard the rumblings of the far-off thunder, like growling from the woods. too far off, it musta been. for when i woke, leapt from under sheets, tore to the window, looked down, all i saw was dry. and more dry.

i realized, through the half-slept night, as i tossed and kept an ear to the window, waited for the rumble to turn to roar or crack or even simply the shushing of the rain itself, that it is not unlike, not at all, keeping one ear out for a baby in another room. or a child with fever, down the hall.

we don’t sleep so soundly when we worry about the blessed things whose watch we keep.

and these days, i am keeping watch on parched and thirsty earth. dusty soils, cracked and split and open wide, in hopes, perhaps, of direct infusion from on high.

i am, too, considering the roots, groping, feeling for the soft spots where the water trickles in. because i am out there with a hose, nearly every other morning, pouring sustenance and fluid into all my babies’ throats.

i hear the hydrangea feigning dizziness from lack of drink. i hear the moaning of the phlox. even black-eyed susans, those hardy sun-baked assemblies, are bending under strain, the weight of all the waiting just too much.

oh, i do my best, make like i’m a rain cloud. tut-tut, i cluck, as i wander here and there with snaking hose.

only i’ll never bring what heavens bring. i cannot make rain that’s rich in all the earth demands.

there is no substitute for rain. no wash of all the earth that quite revives what dwells here.

heck, the hose has no sweet perfume. you’ve never heard a little one exclaim, “hey, i smell the hose.” but you do hear that with rain. “smells like rain,” my grandma used to say. so, long ago, i, too, learned the smell of nearly-bursting, misting clouds.

and that heady scent, it’s not been inhaled in these parts for too long now. oh, it’s spit a bit, once or twice, but no real soaking, not enough to soothe what’s parched. heck, i can’t recall the last time i had need to spring my umbrella.

and that’s a sorry thing when one depends on sky to do its job. when one can only hope for a long slow sprinkling to get life back in order, to bathe the rows and rows that dare to bloom, to burst with cock-eyed promise, at the summer’s end.

all this paying attention to what falls upon my so-called crops and the shriveled leaves of trees is but one blessing of the muddy paws that come with my compulsion for the yardsy beds i laid this summer.

all the world becomes so simple when you start each day inspecting the stalks and stems and limp old leaves that got to where they are because you tucked them there.

it is the mantle of the gardener, to be the keeper, the shepherd, the custodian, of your plot of planet earth.

for the most part, the growing things depend on you–and cloud and sun and wind and soil–to tend to all their needs.

oh, yes, the fussy ones need fertilizers. and the spineless ones need stakes and twine and those twisty bits that come on loaves of bread, or bagels from the deli. and, every once in a while, there’s the random beetle that must be whisked away in swift short order.

but mostly, it boils down to basics, pure and simple and straight-up: light and water–in the form of rain or, in a pinch, straight from the hose.

and are those not among the shortlist, Nos. 1 and 3, perhaps, on the Great Creator’s chart of chores, back in the way, way beginning? on the first day, i do believe, dear God flicked the lightswitch; did he not? and then he waited only till day tres for the bit about the seas.

in a world where both essentials come so mindlessly, with the crank of the faucet, or the banging of our fist against the button on the wall–we sometimes lose track of just how breathtaking both are, in fact.

and that is why, besides the simple truth that i love to pluck and tuck a host of stems and nodding heads in bottles all around the house, i consider it religion to grow myself a garden.

it brings me back to what matters deeply on this spinning globe. it centers me amid the daily storms.

and so, i wait for rain. i sit here typing with an open window, and an ear that strains to hear the pitter-patter.

so when it comes, the sacred holy water, i can leap outside, and watch my darlings guzzle down the very cocktail of the swollen summer clouds. the divine elixir, after all.

are you looking out the window, longing for the rains to come? it’s easy not to notice, so easy in this world of pavement, impervious to what is thrust upon it. but when your world is soft, and rooted in fields or beds or simply old cracked terra cotta pots, it all makes all the difference. and at summer’s almost-close, my ears are thirsty, oh so thirsty, for the shushing soothing sound of rain. a lullabye long overdue.