I have always loved this song title (although the song itself is very sad), and living here I think of it often. We can see the storms sweeping across the valley and anticipate when they will hit our hillside. We refer to many of them as “the wall”, as in “the wall is about to hit”. That means that we are dry right now, but there is a solid sheet of grey to the west which has completely obscured the mountains and the valley, and that in the next few minutes we will be inundated. Often the arrival of the wall is preceded by an increase in the wind, the turbulence which accompanies thermal and pressure changes. If we are working outside we pick up the pace, if we are indoors we may run out to collect tools, bikes, stray bits of clothing or anything else we don’t want to have drenched. Windows facing south and west get closed. We batten the hatches a little bit, and then we enjoy.
The rain cleans everything. The pollution generated from cars and trucks is swept away. The driveway turns to mud, but the dust is laid. The leaves on the trees are polished, the stones and concrete pathways, which all summer we have swept, but have never gotten truly grit-free, are scrubbed. The lawn turns emerald and instantly needs to be mowed. There is no better sound than that of the raindrops on the leaves, the roof and the windows. And the accompanying wind makes all the trees bow and dance. It is so beautiful. And, perhaps the best of all, it means the end of watering. The thousands of plants which share our home are all watered by hand, with sprayers attached to hoses. I heartily dislike sprinkler systems of any kind. The underground ones always seems like they are leaking, and I am completely inept around the above-ground ones. I have routinely sliced though other people’s soaker hoses. They are always very gracious about it, but I feel terrible.
The rainy season stopped very late this year, and has started up very early. I usually estimate that the rain will start mid-October, and we are a month before that. We are thrilled, but it does mean some change in our routines. I am washing more muddy clothing. I have reverted to rubber boots from garden clogs, and my hat has changed from absorbent cotton to resistant wool. And, as much as I want to be a gardener undeterred by the elements, the other day I did let the rain rain drive me under the cover of the front porch where I have my potting bench. I was digging and every time I bent over to lift a shovelful of soil out of the hole the rain hit the bare small of my back. I was still wearing summer clothing so they were too skimpy. Instead of going in and rooting around for the extra-long shirts I keep for wearing in the cold and wet I just retreated to the porch. I always have immense amounts of potting back-logged. There were tiny Douglas firs rescued from some ditch or other, dozens of Portugal laurel seedlings to pot up, some boxwood cuttings (a euphemism, I had stepped on the plant and broken them off), to apply with hormone and pot. There is also my eternal potting project, which is to go into the winter with no plants left in 4 inch pots. Every year I make this vow, and every year I fail to keep it. Maybe this is the year I succeed! But probably not.
So I worked away the afternoon and evening, snug on my porch, turning on the porch lights when the combination of the thick cloud layer and impending nightfall made it difficult to see. Everything I potted got set on the Ajuga and Rubus borders of the adjacent path to get gently watered in with the falling rain. The porch has its own roof so I could hear the raindrops patter, and the woods are so near that the rise and fall of the wind, and the sound of the rain on the leaves was very clear. It is still very warm, so I was warm, and, other than my wet backside, I was dry, and I was busy with all my plants. Each got my full attention as, one by one, I tucked them in, gave their roots room to spread and grow, straightened their stems, and set them out to be blessed by the steady evening rain.