I remember the day when it rained last April. We had a thundershower, the first one of the year. It lasted for fifteen minutes or so and dried up just as quickly; its droplets clung to the 'Bright Gem' tulips until the sun came out. The storm gave us 3/100 of an inch of moisture.
|Tulipa batalinii 'Bright Gem'|
It was also, if I recall correctly, the last rainstorm until the end of July.
With drought gnawing at the bones of the southwest and Texas last year, news channels were full of stories about sinking reservoirs and cracked river beds (and fires, and fires, and fires). One story I read online had a comments section, and a commentator from somewhere back east wrote in about the virtues of rain barrels. We should all get rain barrels, he said, and that would help reduce demand on the water supply. Others chimed in, agreeing, full of ideals and good will. Finally one Texan said laconically, "You have to have rain to fill a rain barrel." And that pretty much ended the discussion.
When your experience of drought is "less rain than normal"—a shower every couple of weeks rather than every few days, a quarter of an inch rather than a whole one—it's hard to grasp the idea of no rain at all. Eking out resources is only something you can do if you have resources to begin with, not if you have none.
Last year my empty rain barrel kept blowing over in the wind and damaging things, so I just set it on its side, out of the way, for most of the summer. Black widows took shelter undisturbed in the shade beneath it. When I stood it upright in July, a cloud of dust slid off.
This year, however, the rain barrel is not going to blow over. On Monday night raindrops began doing a slow tango on the roof; Tuesday morning the dance was still carrying on. By the time I'd finished my tea before breakfast the rain had turned into a swandive of fat, heavy snowflakes that splashed and rippled in the birdbath. In the damper climates where I've lived the day would have been all too ordinary, a dreary disappointment strong on umbrellas and weak on cheer. Here the umbrella stayed home, because getting wet was pure pleasure. The gray skies and slushy streets had the magic of possibility to them. Surely anything out of the ordinary can happen, you feel, in a spring when it rains and snows, and the streets are wet.
The snow lasted through the morning, all but an inch of it melting on contact, and then the clouds drifted off on their own. The storm gave us .81 inches of moisture: 27 times the yield of our storm last April. We have resources to eke out. The rain barrel is full, and nothing needs watering. The ground is wet, deep down among the roots.
The next day as I was tidying some blown twigs out of the garden, I noticed that one of the big sand cherry's branches had gotten caught between the boards of the bench. I bent down to release it and set free a shower of white petals and fragrance. As I stood up clouds of blossom slid off me, brushing my fingertips as they floated down. The ground was already covered with the petals that had fallen during the rain.
Spring is never quite so beautiful, I think, as in those showers of petals as the blossoming ends, the snow-white storms of them drifting past and glinting in the light. Such short-lived abundance, so full of possibility. Tiny green cherries are already beginning to form on some of the branches.
Our 81/100 of an inch of moisture may be just as short-lived as the blossoms and wither away just as surely in the spring sunshine. Still, even a few resources can open the door to all kinds of possibilities. It's early to be looking ahead, but after all, the sand cherries are.
This summer—maybe this summer will be one of abundance.