Blessed Rain

July 8, 2009

Ah, rain. Soft as kitten paws, to start, then pounding, chattering.
   It came not long after I got home Tuesday, and we felt blessed. The skies blackened, the wind stood up on its hind legs and blustered. Then the rain, tentative, shy at first, grew bolder, stronger.
   The ground in the yard was cracking; my two young sycamores and four red oaks were browning at the tips of their leaves, sunburnt. Big brown spots decorated the grass, which, thankfully, hadn’t grown much. I managed to get it cut Saturday morning after performing major surgery on the General.
   But then the rain came, and it was like a new awakening. We went to the shop to watch it, and Bogie sniffed at it, as if it had been so long he’d forgotten what rain was all about. Half his tail swished back and forth. He was, like us, delighted.
   Thunder rumbled, lightning slashed searing scars in the cooling air. After two weeks of scorching, triple-digit weather, at last, a reprieve.
   Rain. What a joyous event. In the spring, I cursed it. In July, relished it. “Man proposes and the Good Lord disposes,” my father was apt to say. True enough. We’re never satisfied with our lot, are we?
   Spent some time enjoying it there at the door of the shop, the bamboo rods behind me on the bench, forgotten for a time. I found myself thinking how the creek might appear: As the rain fell on those low-slung hills and gathered into trickles and rivulets to converge on that sandstone and white-sand river, I could imagine it growing. From its summertime emasculation, fed largely by a few scant springs, it fattened, and the sluggish, passive water soon found motion, became active. Last spring when we visited it was clear the rains had turned it into a roaring beast, rising up its formidable shoulders. Debris caught in tree branches over our heads testified to the sudden leap and lurch of the stream into a hurtling, noisome behemoth.
   A few years ago, my cousin Jim and I found ourselves in a minor drizzle on the part of Grand Avoille Cove north of the levee. There had been a thin surface film on the black water, and as the drops fell, the water cratered, leaped back upon itself and trapped air within. Bubbles, the size of half dollars, appeared as if from nowhere across the expanse of the cove and we were sure we were seeing something so magical it might never be witnessed again. It was beautiful.
   Rainwater runs downhill from the road to the bayou. Sometimes, in a deluge, it runs through the front door of the workshop and out the back! The shop is the only part of the house at ground-level, the rest is blocked. The path it takes runs by the fig tree. I picked a dozen figs this weekend and munched on them happily, but they weren’t up to par. Not sweet as usual. They needed more rain, I think. Perhaps this week’s precipitation will help.
   The tree was decades old. It used to be in the back yard, but a nest of fire ants topped it, ate its roots and I was only able to take a cutting and regrow it. I still consider it the same tree. My grandmother used to stand next to it and talk to kich, the little bird that spoke to Chitimachas.
   Listen. Do you hear? It’s in the fig tree.
A brown, faux-wood kitchen table, the scent of strong coffee, the musky smell of river cane and a half-finished basket. She cocks her head, to be sure of not only the little bird but every minutia of the cosmos in a single chirp.
   It’s in the fig tree.
   Rain, soft as kitten paws. Evening, deepening, but the rain continues, flapping the big leaves of the fig tree as it falls. I try to shake off a tremble of melancholy. See, I’ve been here all my life, Right here. My mother carried me into this house, some of my first steps were taken here, I probably crawled on this same lawn before that. Every inch of wood, every blade of grass and every memory have meaning to me, precious and treasured. One of the water oaks in the front yard is dying, and I should have it cut before it falls…but every loss is monumental, somehow. A piece of the landscape of my life that won’t be there anymore, and I’ve lost more of them already than I can bear. I lean on the familiar, draw strength from the steadfast, am anchored by the cornerstones of my time in this place. This old house, with rain splattering noisily on the metal roof, it’s bones sagging in some places and in need of some blocking, some insulation, some facelift, some tender loving care…it is the terra firma upon which my life was founded.
   Sometimes, when the little switches in my brain misfire and the cold tendrils of a spat of depression creep in, the rain washes it all away. Sometimes the rain feeds it, nourishes it, makes it grow. Sometimes I feel I am standing at the end of a line with all my relations stretched out behind me, and an uncertain future ahead.
   Rain, soft as kitten paws. Water. It’s always water, from one end of this life to the other. Ebb and flow, Harry Middleton said. Ebb and flow, the rhythm of things that come and go. It’s always water, and that satisfies me in ways nothing else can.