It gets dry here quickly when the sun finally shines. It has been at least ten days without rain, probably longer, but the weather reports are forecasts, not hindcasts, and I’ve lost count in the dazzle of sunshine. The grass slips out of its green coat and bares yellow shoulders to the blue sky. The thought – we need to water the lawn – startled me as it wandered across my field of vision as I sat down to write this week.
So I wrote the rain. I wrote a rain of words and ideas and images and questions and wonderings. Tails of stories, wisps of characters, thoughts half-followed around the corner to see where they hide, where they slink off to. There was no order, no agenda, just rain rain rain on this ground that I want to make into fertile soil. I don’t know what seeds lay dormant beneath the surface, I don’t know if I am cultivating heirloom roses, runner beans and broccoli, or pernicious weeds. There is a danger in becoming too precious about the contents of a garden. I prefer mine wild.
I rained down the memories of hot New Mexico summers spent at the swimming pool, alternately soaked in the water or sprawled on the hot pavement, playing cards and sucking green apple Jolly Ranchers. The thrill of getting a Barq’s rootbeer from the vending machine and walking home barefoot, with chlorine stung eyes and matted pigtails, stepping on the white lines of the crosswalk and the yellow paint on the sidewalk curb so we didn’t burn the soles of our feet on the bubbling asphalt.
And when those memory clouds had delivered their moisture, I summoned the wind. And it blew me to a new location: the Texas Hill country.
To the time I took a walk with William at dusk and he was able to hear and identify 10 different birds singing. I would struggle to name 2. The time he stopped the car and pulled over on a dirt road, and jumped out to show me something he had noticed as we drove along: a dung beetle pushing a ball of armadillo dung across the road with its forelegs. To William’s grandmother, who had the charming and infuriating habit of giving away family heirlooms to anyone who she liked chatting with, including me. After a visit to William’s grandma, I’d show him all the things she’d tried to give me, and we’d quietly slip back the valuables (I could keep the tat). From her, I have a silver filigree corner that she rescued from a crumbling leather-bound book and turned into a necklace, using a black velvet ribbon.
Again and again that morning, I would call the wind, ‘Where to now? Which direction?’ And auspicious gales arrived, carrying me from place to place.
At each destination, I would turn my head from side to side, scanning the horizon for a thundercloud, waiting for a waterfall of memory to wash down, hoping to become thoroughly drenched in a flash flood of words.
By the end of the afternoon, I had traveled from England to New Mexico to Texas to Seattle, by way of New York City and Columbus, Ohio. My garden drank deep: a shower of six thousand words had penetrated its soil.
With the rain, sun, and wind, what will my garden grow?