The rain fell hard. It struck an orchestra's worth of tones from the hardscape of the city: dull, thudding drum notes from the roof, staccato tinklings off the metal gate, resonant pings against the windows. The sidewalks hissed, the swamp cooler chimed like an untuned bell. The water rushing from the canale by the kitchen door sang as the cistern caught it.
In the garden, amid the living things, the rain fell more quietly. As I sat slicing peaches near the kitchen window I could hear the soft pattering of droplets on leaves and earth.
The peaches were a gift from an acquaintance. A windstorm the night before had blown several bushels of soft, ripe fruit from her trees, and she was anxious that they be put to use. I gladly came away with a couple of bags, and spent the evening peeling and pitting, cutting away bruises and blemishes. The fragrance of peaches, the fragrance of rain, both of them were unexpected and precious. They mingled beguilingly while the wind blew cool. The practical part of me, the part that wasn't giddy with ambrosia, wondered what to do with the quantities of fruit. As I worked and pondered I kept a watchful eye on the canale.
|The canale in question (on a sunnier day).|
It's in an odd place, draining over a tight corner between the house and the little wall and gate that divide front from back. Left to its own devices in a heavy rain the canale can send torrents of water gushing down. The force eats away at the base of the wall and washes little arroyos into the crusher fines on the path between the houses. It's my own flash flood zone in miniature, a small version of the floods that are always the flip side of drought.
In Albuquerque, with the sheer limestone and granite cliffs of the Sandia Mountains on the edge of town, the sun-baked, packed earth in the foothills, and the concrete and asphalt of the city, an intense storm can send a mountain's worth of rain down from the heights to flood the valley in short order. Hard surfaces can't take in all that water at once, so you have to divert the water and temporarily make room for it elsewhere. The city has an extensive network of arroyos and catchment areas to cope with the problem. I have a much smaller problem, and a cistern.
|Sorry about the trash can, but it has to go somewhere.|
A glazed pot, really, partially filled with gravel. The pot catches the water pouring from the canale, and the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot lets the water out again in a smaller stream. To slow the water even more, a shallow trench, deepening as it gets farther from the foundation of the house, is filled with gravel and planted with vinca; the far end of the trench waters one of the boxwoods.
The rain that night was the hardest we've had since I set up the drainage system, and I was pleased to see that this bit of hardscaping worked. The flow from the cistern wasn't forceful enough even to budge the gravel underneath; the overflow from the trench puddled in the crusher fines but didn't wash them away. The rain was a lot of a good thing rather than too much. It was a windfall, like the peaches, a generosity in life to be enjoyed all of a sudden.
The peaches have been turned into a simple sauce, ripe for a touch of culinary brilliance, should I have one, this autumn or winter. Fortunately I had just cleared out the freezer anyway, making room by chance for all this bounty. The pint jars glow with summer light every time I open the freezer door.
Peaches and rain: reminders to make room for those moments when the feast-or-famine winds of life turn sharply toward feasting. Room, so that a windfall isn't left to lie, feeding no one. Room, so that a shower of good things doesn't run off unyielding surfaces. Room, so that good things can soak into the soft places, bringing life to thirsty roots.
Room to enjoy a lot of a good thing, all of a sudden.