And the Earth Breathes…

Photo: Road RainRain. It’s been quite plentiful in North Texas this last year or so, which isn’t historically common. Certainly feels like a different place, whether the weather is on a truly new cycle or it’s merely a blip in the cosmic scheme of things, and my traveling-companion and I marvel every time we’re out and about at how strangely, beautifully green the region is for this time of year. It helps to take the edge off of the heat, as well, and I can’t help but smell that magical eau-de-vie perfume exhaled by the world when it’s rainy and feel renewed, myself. What a calming effect it has.Photo: The Grey that Leads to Green

I know that many parts of the world are being treated less kindly by the rains and getting swamped in floods, and hope that mother earth will find a balance that harms none, helps all to flourish, but can’t help being grateful for our gentler and more nourishing version of the weather thus far. Our road trip to Santa Fe and back in late July/early August not only provided further evidence in its proliferation of green and growing things along our route but treated us to the beauties of stormy summer skies and perfumed earthy air quite a few times, as well. While storms do bring their troubles with them, those that do kindly leave us unharmed are a magnificent show of power and spectacle and beauty beyond human invention and remind me to show my respect and appreciation for nature more often.Photo: Well-Fed Landscape

Petrichor
The scent is all; this haunting
fragrance takes, in perfect synchrony,
my breath away and gives it back again,
back in electric rush as though
I’d leapt from ocean’s-depths
straight into air again—
This moment, this aching, longing,
gorgeous spark
of miniature infinity, this marks the time
when I find myself renewed, reborn—
The atomized eternity
that I breathe in, that I
pull in through every singing, sharp
electron of my frame, makes me go racing
back into the origins of time—still
fleeting, pass through iron gates
to death, and just as suddenly,
burst forth and know the spangled joys
of present life again

***************************************************

Santa Fe Afternoon
(A Breaking Storm’s Baptism)
Ochre and indigo, shadows and fire,
and in the far-off pines, a chanting bird
insinuating secret things is heard,
then joined by other birds, whose hearts’ desire
Is that the fulsome, clouded, darkling sky
should soon release a feathered shaft its own:
the lightning, thunder echoing with groan
and shout, to rout the perching birds to fly,
For they all wait, as we, gravity-bound,
wait under porches’ purple-gloaming eaves
for when the rain shakes us out of the leaves
to chase again the richness of this ground,
For water always wakens us once more,
Resuscitating all with petrichor.

Photo: The Veiled Desert

Even in the desert, the earth rejoices when the sky lets down its veils of rain.

With this little photo-essay and pair of poems, I’m reflecting on those joys, but also giving you a little preview: my books #2 and 3 should be published in good time for winter gift shopping, whether you’re interested in giving something to someone else or treating yourself! One of the books is a second volume sharing additional adventures in Miss Kitty’s Fabulous Emporium of Magical Thinking (or, MiKiFEMT-1), and the other will be a more grownup book of my poetry and visual images. Both in full color, this time. Not to worry, you can still get copies of that first book of nonsensical delights shipped directly to you any time you like, just by visiting good old Amazon online. You should have plenty of reading material handy in case the rain comes to visit again…

Photo: A Good Day for Reading

It’s always a good day for reading.

Between Worlds

Photo: Not the Last RainThis strange new climate we’ve been experiencing in north Texas lately, never mind on the west coast where drought has reentered the vocabulary for the first time in eons and the northeast where winter and massive storms have ruled in a newly lengthy way, makes me think I’m on another planet. Or perhaps a parallel reality. Whatever it is, it seems a bit surreal and decidedly unfamiliar.

In the last number of days we’ve had more rain, more thunder-and-lightning, and more windstorms—even a small tornado or two touching down not far from our home—than many past years have seen altogether locally. We’ve driven along what are normally pastures and meadows and bone-dry fields and low runoff gullies and seen what looks like  it should have the iconic airboats of the southern swamps speeding through: trees and brush sticking out intermittently from extensive marshes where we’ve only ever seen dry land. The phenomenal density and lushness of the grasses and trees, wildflowers in rampant carpets blooming for weeks on end instead of days, and swarms of early insect madness all explode around us in unprecedented extremes.

Then, today, a brilliantly sunny, rather hot, almost cloudless day; it was exactly as I would expect here in a typical mid-May. The rosebush behind the kitchen, shorn before the last storm of its spectacular but doomed bucket full of blooms lest they be beaten to death by the ongoing rain and hail, decides to pop out a couple of fireworks to celebrate the sun’s return. The birds are sunning themselves on every branch and power line as though to soak up rays as quickly as they can. The local lawn crews dash madly from house to house.

Because the weather forecast says we should expect about 7 or 8 days, at least, of rain and thunderstorms to begin again tomorrow.

And isn’t that the way things go? We decide we know how the world will operate, how we expect life to move forward, what we will do within it, and immediately we are given a firm reminder that nature will do as it pleases, that change is inevitable, and that we are small jots on the map of history. The sun will blast its way through a wall of weeks-long storming and then the storms will drop their dousing movable sea back down over the landscape for another round. We make our predictions and forecasts and duck and weave to move through it all as best we can guess we should, and it all changes again.

For now, I am content to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. All of it is rather exciting and surprising and even, welcome. And there’s nothing I can do to stop change. So I’ll just enjoy the weird phenomena as best I can, soak up the rain and then stop and smell the roses between times again when the opportunity arises.Photo: Not the Last Rose

Just a Drop

A raindrop is a small enough thing.

Millions of raindrops together, they can do something.

While other parts of the country and the world are thirsting desperately for even a few good rains, we in north Texas have been surprised with a gift of enough rain in the last few weeks to break the spine of a few years of our own drought.

We human sorts aren’t the only grateful living things in the event.

Wildflowers have been blooming in special profusion this year, even in my own backyard.

And other very small things seem grateful, too.Photo: A Primrose and a Prim Little Snail

What the Rain *can’t* Do

We have been fortunate, in north Texas, to get more than the expected doses of rain in the last number of months. It has gone some distance toward ameliorating the statewide drought’s effects on our county and nearby zones. The lakes have risen a little. The trees are breathing an almost audible sigh of relief. The locals swoon over the magical burst of wildflowers every bit as delightedly as the tourists do.

But it’s no perfect cure. A good rain can’t solve all of the world’s ills. The local drought is not isolated or ended but creeping through the nation in an ominous reflection of the receding polar ice caps, drought that is strangely now becoming a pestilence even on the more typically misty and moist California coast and Pacific Northwest. And there are still countries the world over suffering from much longer and deeper droughts.

Rainy weather can, on a smaller scale, also darken the skies of many individuals’ moods, bring soggy sorrow to brows usually brighter with cheer. It can both literally and figuratively dampen the parade of plans made by folk who rely on sunny weather for their sunny spirits and can seemingly call a halt to normalcy in zones like my home region, where a little struggle for water is generally to be expected. Any stretch of overcast and rain longer than 24 hours sends herds of north Texans running around, mooing nervously like it’s the End of Days in the Old West.

Still, rain can’t kill moods and expectations and obliterate optimism without our consent. While I’ve been moody and something of a little black cloud myself lately, being in the proverbial phrase ‘under the weather‘ (in the non-alcoholic version), I was reminded of this submissive and defeatist, even compliant, element when listening to the web-streamed broadcast of the university jazz concert I didn’t feel well, or wakeful, or cheery, enough to attend last night. The vocal and instrumental interlacing of familiar and wonderful jazz tunes lifted my mood more than the start of my medication kicking in had managed to do. They led me to listen to other upbeat music, from further jazz classics to pop, drumline rhythms, and one of those sorts of music that I find is fairly impossible to hear without breaking into a crooked grin: reggae.

It would seem, on reflection, that among those things rain cannot accomplish is keeping a good reggae number from cheering me up, and that is something I will happily and readily forgive the rain for failing to do.

Digital illo: Let It Rain, Mon

Let it rain, Mon.

Blowing through the Wild Grasses

Weed or wildflower? Messy or naturalized? Everyone has an opinion, and they often differ distinctly on the same little plant or plot. Part of the pleasure of good company will always be in its variety and the interest that it brings to life. Gardening tastes are very much in that vein.

Digital illustration: Wild Grasses

As a sometime gardener, however amateur, I can think of few styles of landscaping that I don’t find appealing and attractive in their own ways. I admire the near-perfection of elaborate, formal palace gardens and magnificent, fountain-filled parks with their follies and allees. I am fond of a rustic campfire-side bramble patch, punctuated by straggly hydrangeas run wild, down by the lakeside. There is both soul refreshment and eye appeal for me in a delicate Zen garden with bonsai, laceleaf maples and a barely rippling koi pond.

When it comes to my own gardens, I tend to walk just a little farther on the wild side. I hate to fiddle and fuss at length with the hard labor of a garden. I greatly prefer the genteel pleasures of the design of the garden, and perhaps the occasional artistic pruning to shape a rhododendron or sapling tree. But I’m not so wild about back-breaking rock picking and digging; I moved from incredibly rich but equally rocky volcanic glacial till of western Washington to the cement-like red clay of Texas, both places where putting a one-gallon root ball into the ground requires a pickaxe.

My first garden was an exploration of the beauties of cottage style gardening. Washington, temperate and moist, was ideal for a grand assortment of bulbs, flowering shrubs and cutting flowers, so I had profuse blooms and constant green with little effort. The traditional cottage style allowed me to squeeze a massive amount of lively growth into a normal city house lot, and the more I wedged into the ground, the less room there was for volunteer and invasive plants. Weeds had a tough go of it there, so it wasn’t especially hard to keep ahead of them.

There are plants I don’t invite to my parties. Much as I enjoy and admire most, I’m no friend of those pest plants that choke out others, cause massive allergies, or stab at me with cruel thorns, or those that threaten entire ecosystems, mine or others’. Good riddance to misplaced English Ivy, kudzu, poison oak and wild blackberry canes. Conversely, one of my particular favorite garden options is to find ways to encourage native plants to thrive. The more a plant is suited and accustomed to its environs, the more it will grow and be healthy and attractive and weed-proof.

Texas has reinforced that love in my aggressively. It’s a harsher climate than the Pacific Northwest’s in which I now garden, so what I plant and tend must needs be up to surviving and flourishing in those more demanding circumstances—or die. Even desert plants don’t necessarily have what it takes, since north Texas can still get true freezes in winter, and occasional snow, hail and ice. This last winter, a relatively mild one, still killed off a lot of specimen agaves and prickly pears and even cut some mighty oaks down to size.

I’m finding that the area’s status as an extension of the country’s central prairies may be the key to what will survive and grow here long term. When anything will grow, that is. I’m tending to my little wildflower meadow out back, to see if I can’t reintroduce something a little more self-sustaining than those long cultivated but seldom successful hard turf lawns that were popular in our area and surrounded our house when we bought it. Even better than the wildflowers, I’m finding, will be the ‘amber waves of grain’ I seeded in  among the wildflowers, the native prairie grasses.

Prairie grasses have some of the deepest, toughest and most tenacious root systems of any type of plants, and along with the leaves that sway in every breeze, often creating symphonies of susurration, they go to seed in many attractive ways. So I really am enjoying ‘sowing my wild oats.’ And Little Bluestem, Fountain Grass, Weeping Lovegrass, and many more. My backyard creatures will enjoy them, and their varicolored, many-textured attractions will beat any struggling, forced lawn that ever tried to eke out a living where its native cousins once roamed free.

Thirsty as Ever

Last week we were rained on rather thoroughly in Puerto Rico, but only in a welcome, friendly way. That’s how it gets, and stays, so verdant and rich—Rico—there, after all. Other than trying to steer clear of the biggest instant rivers in the roads, the only negative reaction I can say I had to the episode was one of longing for the same thing to happen just a little more often in Texas. Happily, there was a brief, modest rainfall today. But I’m feeling a little greedy, and hoping for more.
Photo: Thunderhead near San JuanSo Rain, Already

Something hanging in the air, like newly laundered sheets

Oppresses breath and dampens souls and irons out the streets;

Humidity flows, deep and wide, ’til birds transform to fish,

Swimming in air as thick as seas, until my fondest wish

Is that a seam should open up the center of the sky

And rain pour down, and I’ll feel, too, so happy I could cry.Photo: Thunderclouds over San Juan

Bring It On

There’s that old saying about how ‘it never rains but it pours,’ and while I often think it’s true that troubles and trials seem to come in number rather than singly, I also tend to think that’s the sense we get because everything subsequent event’s difficulty is magnified by the one that preceded it. And of course, in a more literal sense, since moving to Texas five years ago during a period of general drought in the region, I would be inclined to say that it seldom rains enough here, let alone pours. Much as I might find minor inconveniences and even annoyances brought on by a rainy day, the more so if it’s stormy, I am glad enough of the needed moisture that I don’t hang onto any grudges against nature’s outpourings. Even on that persistently blinding, bleary day of storms when I took my turn driving toward home at the end of last year’s summer road trip I was more grateful than hateful regarding the dousing we received, and that’s going some for a nervous driver like me.Photo: Rain Storm on the Road

I am reminded these days, though, of the original frustrated character of the proverb and am working not to get sucked down into such a mode myself. There have been little hints from my mind and body that perhaps the decade-plus of grand good health and wellness I’ve enjoyed upon being treated for and generally freed from depression and anxiety and the nasty physiological symptoms thereof may be, like the moon in a spooky campfire tale, on the wane. I’ve avoided thinking about it much not only because it’s an unpleasant prospect in itself but also for superstitious fear that just contemplating such a thing makes it more possibly true. And at first, it was just those little, nagging bits of something that I couldn’t quite define as backsliding: a hint more tension when riding in the car, a touch more touchy about unimportant problems in the day-to-day, a stomach-ache when I get worried about a deadline….

But when we were at the airport the other day, waiting to board a perfectly ordinary flight to go to the familiarity of our own home after ending a week of (for me) unfamiliar and exciting travel that should have been the tough part of the equation if there were any, I had the horrible experience of an emotional meltdown in a panic attack. It’s been so many years since I had one that I almost didn’t realize what was happening and thought I had simply gotten a sudden illness of a more ordinary kind, and that would be irritating enough in its own way, but when I did connect the dots and know that I was losing all sense of control and well-being, the drop down that well was swift and obliterating. I am relieved that it was a relatively short-lived event, and I doubt many around me knew anything untoward was happening, but inside, I was a morass of terror, unable even to speak in quiet gratitude to my spouse for his patience. In the end, I got on the plane and, once there, cocooned with my scarf and went to sleep as quickly as I could, and that was that.

The speed and intensity of the attack, however, were enough to convince me that it’s now time to see the doctor and discuss what to do before I fall as far, and for as long, as I had in the past. I have no use for being that powerless and miserable shadow of myself ever again. I hate feeling almost perpetually nauseated, often breathless or dizzy, ice-cold and then broiling hot and then ice-cold again. I loathe feeling like I will burst into absolutely unwarranted uncontrollable crying at any moment. I abhor feeling like a useless baby. I despise feeling so sick and enervated and exhausted that I can barely lift my arms, no, can hardly croak out a word without wanting to keel over. I reject that version of me!

During our lovely week in Puerto Rico, it rained one day in the intense and intimidating and glorious way that a tropical shower can do. It was pouring thoroughly enough that we waited until the hardest pounding let up a little, popped open our umbrellas, and headed out knowing we’d get good and wet. I was glad of wearing both quick-drying summery clothes and open, flow-through sandals, because even with our umbrellas in full bloom and the rain somewhat lessened, within about two blocks’ walk we were seeing rivers race down the street and right on up over our feet. By the time we stopped in a coffee shop not so many minutes later, we were pretty damp all over and soaked up over the ankles. It was warm weather, and the rain dried very quickly indeed, and of course we long for that sort of bounty for our Texas landscape, so we rather enjoyed the novelty of it all. But I’ll admit that even knowing that the rain’s a tiny price to pay for the generous greenery of the tropics, I was delighted to see the sun again as soon as it arrived.Photo: Rainfall in San Juan

I can’t say what is the benefit of going through the floods of depression and anxiety. I can only hope that at least it teaches me to be more mindful of the many blessings I do have and to fight my way back up and out toward them as quickly as I possibly can. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will also be more sensitive to others’ struggles when I have been reminded how hard it is to keep perspective when one’s own brain and body absolutely refuse to bow or to cooperate with the tiniest and simplest, most logical of requests. All I can say for certain is that I am not planning to lie back and take it. You’re gonna rain on me, eh? Bring it on. Getting out my umbrella, yes. Digging up every resource I can find or imagine, done and done. Climbing up the side of the well with my own fingernails if I have to, rather than falling farther into it, see ya on the other side, pal. Bring it on.