8.14.2011,3:08 PM
After the Rain
"An American anthropologist once asked a Hopi Indian why all his people's songs were about water. Because it is so scarce, the Hop replied; is that why all your songs are about love?"
- Gregary McNamee, in The Desert Reader

Dusk after rain on the home prairie.
Where the early morning sun lights patches of grass, the dew makes the green iridescent. Illuminated leaves of trees facing the sunrise glow as if they are immobile participants on a stage. Cattle egrets glitter white as they fly low across the dark blue-grey sky. A solitary fledgling tree, the winged-bark elm tree planted three years ago in front of the house, stands like a soldier in the reprieve from the holocaust of the constant blazing, hot Texas sun.


It is the morning after the first rain in months, after a month of unrelenting sun and triple-digit temperatures. I stood outside as the gray clouds descended and watched the curtain of rain slowly drape over the spot of prairie where I live. My face turned upward, mouth open, arms wide, and drank the drops as they fell into my mouth. And I laughed in joy, for myself and for the thirsty plants and animals with which I share this parched ground. Only after a good soaking and nearing lightening bolts did I take refuge inside my house. And curled up in front of the open windows on the carpet to take a nap soothed by the moist breeze and sound of raindrops. 

Cattle egrets roosting in a large oak.
And now as I sit outside on the bench and enjoy the rising sun, I watch the prairie emerge into daylight from a moonlit dewy night. The rain has awoken the spade frogs and they bellow out for mates, hoping to procreate in a flurry before having to burrow back into the mud again. There they will hibernate as if frozen in hardening clay, until the next rain. 

A road runner walks three feet on the gravel drive. Stops. Then advances another couple feet on its tall stick legs while the long tail and neck balance like a fulcrum. Crickets vibrate all around. No matter which way you turn your head, the ears pick up their vibrations. If you listen closely, the ears and brain begin to pinpoint their locations in the landscape. I realize they are all in synchrony; the rhythm of their vibrations is like tiny instruments and I wonder which one is the conductor.

A gentle wind rustles the cottonwood leaves and brushes the hairs on my naked arms like a caress. Birds intermittently scatter themselves across the sky and the large clouds above move like a slow oozing sheet of grey-blue melted marshmallows. A cattle egret skims the pasture nearby. Humidity obscures the ridge beyond to the west and paints it with a melting pot of blue, gray and green. Small spots of brick red reveal dying trees, those that have succumbed to the unrelenting sun, heat and drought.

A cacophony of odors wafts into my nostrils and tickles my brain that greets them like a sequestered little child hugging its long-lost playmates. Seemingly dead wet grass leaves smell like decomposing fiber. Musty vapors trapped in the black prairie dirt are released by the moisture. I can still smell the fresh rain lingering in the air occasionally punctuated by an unknown plant with its volatile scent. My ears and nose are bombarded with reminders of prairie life and it makes me smile.

As the morning progresses, mankind’s presence increasingly interrupts the solitude. A plane drones high above the clouds. Tires and motors whine and grunt along the twisting ribbon of tarmac that threads through this area of high prairie. Thankfully, we are treated to a reprieve from the loud and constant droning from a natural gas hub down the road. The sounds of the earth are unmasked again and allowed to speak. Even the singing tires on the road are more welcome than the mechanical churning that has dominated the area lately. I relish its absence.

Clouds dampen the rising sun and the wind now rattles my hair. A crow echoes its calls in the background of chirps from several birds, and crickets continue their symphony. A rabbit dashes from an obese cedar shrub to cover underneath a tall tree near the shed. As I sip my coffee and sit on the bench, I rejoice in the aftermath of our recent rainstorm. The prairie that had slipped into a silent dormancy, punctuated only by human presence, has blossomed again from the life-giving rain. And I am cognizant of the treasure of water.

I am reminded as I sit here, a place on this earth, of all the connections, the relationships between the bowels below my feet to the atmosphere above, and all that is in between. I am reminded how important it is to be a responsible participant in the continuing cycles. And it is that which brings meaning to my life.

Thank you, Rain, for your precious presence and this cycle of renewal. And for reminding me of my place, our places, in it all.

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posted by Macrobe
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