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.

Just Another Oddball Day in Paradise

Digital illo: Got It Made in the ShadeIt was a day of superb weather. As expected. It’s only that it was the kind of weather expected at entirely different times of the year, or at least in entirely different parts of the world. At least, by me.

In that way, it was par for the course in the modern world’s weather, at least. One doesn’t really know what lies ahead further than a few minutes, though now it’s less for the reason that weather forecasting is such an inexact art (it’s far less so than it used to be, anyhow) and more that previous centuries’ patterns have apparently been twisting and turning and emerging in wholly new directions and shapes. Exciting stuff, to be sure. Not so easy to manage our lives within it, given the difficulty of knowing whether the rain that’s begun requires a light, windbreaker sort of slicker or the building of an ark.

Meanwhile, superb weather at the “wrong” date and place.

One could spend plenty of time and energy trying to figure out why, or what it might mean in the grand scheme of things, and surely, thousands of smarter people have done so. I am not the one to solve those puzzles. I went for a walk, enjoyed the superb weather, and when it grew too hot for my taste, found a few trees in whose shade I could continue to enjoy the weather without being quite so warm.

It’s a weird world, this, and not quite like the one I thought I’d known all these years. But it still has some mighty nice shade trees here and there, and if I’m not too silly to take advantage of those, I can still think of it as a great home planet. Works for me.

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

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Yes, the age-old adage, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” whether Mark Twain originated it or not, is as true as ever in north Texas. Winter was generally milder than average in the metroplex, with only a couple of brief ice storms to remind us it was winter. But then, we’ve had a spate of rainstorms here this spring that must be at least close to setting some records for the region’s seasonal rainfall and low average temperatures, and certainly I can attest to the practically tropical greens and lushness of the landscape as compared to my previous 5+ years living in the area. A glance at the lake levels charts is almost comically improbable; even the small line reading “Change since yesterday” today reads “↑ 0.70 feet,” meaning that nearby Ray Roberts Lake has risen nearly 21.5 cm in under 24 hours. For a place that has languished well under normal levels for several years, being still below “full pool” as late as 11 April this year, that’s a tidy bit of change.

Photo: Sparks Lake, 2015

Even the level of Sparks Lake, also known as our front porch, has remained so high that I have had to resort to putting mosquito-repellant ‘dunks‘ designed for standing water applications on the concrete. At least now we can advertise our home as waterfront property.

The last few days have been especially showy in their showers. On Thursday night, our drive home from Dallas was merely rainy at the beginning, but the last half hour was lit with such constant sheet lightning and the soundtrack of equally omnipresent grumbling thunder that it was film-worthy. I shot 30 minutes of iPhone footage that would have given a Steadicam a seizure, but of course it’s too long to link here and would probably give my reading friends dizzy fits. Not to mention the incredible circus-like blur of lights as the rain obscured and abstracted everything, and the couple of times that waves literally engulfed the whole car, even at crawling speeds. But as there was no place to stop on the freeway for shelter, all of us simply lumbered on, determined. I did, however, shoot a couple of very brief clips at home over the weekend, as the fun continued.

Yesterday, in fact (Sunday), the local tornado warning sirens went on around 2 or 2:30 pm. They kept up their mournful moaning for well over an hour, accompanied by warnings via telephone and computer from the National Weather Service that our county was under flash flood warnings until the wee hours of today. The wind picked up quite a bit, even in our sheltered spot between a low rise toward the street and our back fence line along the small runoff ravine, where we sit pretty comfortably sandwiched between higher lots and houses on the sides. Our great oak and pear trees whispered more urgently than usual that we should batten down the hatches and keep away from the windows. The lightning and thunder that had been holding their dramatic interchange all through Saturday night and Sunday morning kept at it like a couple of elderly housemates nagging at each other without more than a moment’s pause for breath. Somewhere around 3:30 pm, I thought it prudent to quit sneaking onto the porches for a gawk at the squalling mess and hunkered down in the quietest part of the house to write until the sirens stopped and the storm abated. And it did. The worst here had stopped shortly after, the eye of the storm now past us.

We were among the most fortunate, in our safely tucked-in hideaway at home. For a glimpse at some of the nearby damage, click this link. Yes, a couple of deaths have been confirmed and plenty of damage has been sustained. It is nowhere near the levels and expanse of more famous storms and disasters around the world, but my heart goes out to those who had a harder time of it during this go-round than we have; as I’ve said many a time before, suffering is a relative thing, and one’s pain in the moment may as well be the only pain in the world. The people who were hit hard by this latest storm, whether the ones three miles down the road from us or those in other counties and across the state line, have my true sympathy, and I feel all the more fortunate for the ease of our escape.

Today, less than 24 hours later, this is what it looks like in our idyllic little backyard. Blue skies, bright sun, thriving garden, and receding puddles where the walking path had been a fast-flowing stream. I look at it in amazement and scratch my head a little. The weather forecast tells me to expect rain tomorrow and the next day, and thunderstorms again for a full week afterward. All I can do is keep living my life and see what comes.Photo: Just Like the Storm Never Happened

Meanwhile, I need to get back out to the garage and figure out how to reset our water heater, because the storm knocked it out of commission.

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

Back in Business

photo montage

It may not look like much yet…

Spring has fully returned to north Texas. That means repeated visitations from wind and tornado warnings, thunderstorms that lead to flash floods, and threats of baseball sized hail. More often, though, it means warm temperatures and plants seeming to grow 50% taller in a day. And it brings on bud, leaf and bloom with a flourish that reminds me how showy and productive a Texas garden can be at its—however brief—peak.

photo montage

Will you think me impertinent if I show you my bloomers?

A Saturday outing is splashed with roadside waves of Showy Primrose, Paintbrush and Bluebonnets, and the trees are bursting with a dense, cheering liveliness that belies the likelihood of a relatively short span of such intense lushness.photo montage

Our own garden is reawakening, sending up promises left and right of everything from capsicum and tomato, parsley and kale to the same primrose standard-bearers ushering in roses, Salvia and Echinacea. The saplings garnered of the city’s largesse in the annual tree giveaway—redbud, Mexican Plum and Texas Ash, to date—are awakening as well. Though the odd temperature fluctuations and ice storms this winter hindered their bloom, they are leafing out in style. And as much as I’ve been known to vilify and slander all of squirrel-dom as thieving rats, I will grant them all manner of amnesty for their one generous act of planting acorns across our property and providing a welcome lagniappe of oak seedlings in my planters for the increase of our little backyard grove.

photo montage

I’m up to my irises in spring bloom…

photo montage

Can you blame me for being dazzled?

For shorter-term flair, it would be hard to argue with iris as my chief fancy at this time of year. Always a favorite flower for both my partner and me, it was the centerpiece of our wedding design, courtesy of Mom’s garden, and an indulgent purchase last fall in the form of a self-gifted bunch of fans for the garden here. Along with the classic lavender bearded and highly perfumed variety given us by a dear friend, the newcomers are flourishing in their bed in the front corner of our lot, and I am wholly enamored of their flashy, curling flounces and the radiant tendrils of their beards. The graphic drama sustained by their swordlike leaves after the flowers pass is a pleasing bonus of irises’ appeal, but the magnificence of a bed in full bloom will always be one of my most beloved signs that this season of nature’s great exuberance is in full swing, a grand hurrah in floral form.photo

If You don’t Like the Weather, Wait a Minute

photoHave you ever seen a pigeon flying backward? I did today. This phenomenal occurrence was not because I spotted a mutant genius helicopter pigeon; that really might be a matter for tales of magic and fantasy, given the modern pigeon’s brain.

It was that windy. The pigeon was making a valiant effort to take off from the edge of a roof and, blown instead straight backward, finally saw the same edge directly under him and came right back in for a landing. What’re you gonna do?

The wind is giving us a good whack here in north Texas today. Two days ago, it was over 80°F/27°C, brilliantly sunny, and calm as a sleeping cat. Tonight, we’re told, we can expect freezing temperatures and should cover all of our tender plants in the garden. A couple of days before our balmy pseudo-summer day, we had a storm pass through. Parts of our town had a little thunder and lightning and a fair amount of rain with a little bit of hail mixed in it, but nothing extravagant by local standards. Our house was in that lucky sector, and so was our car while we drove home in The Weather. Just across town, others were not so fortunate: some had hail the size of golf balls or larger, and tornado-like gusts, and among the downed trees and limbs there were homes where the roofs were destroyed or caved in, cars were damaged or totaled by metal-dimpling all over and glass smashed through, and interiors soaked with the rain and debris thrown in through the broken windows.

We’re torn, in more ways than strictly the physical, around here.

We crave every drop of H2O that we can squeeze out of the sky; even after a relatively mild number of months, our lake levels continue to be well below their norms, some still fully in drought status. It’s not considered a plus if you can drive directly to where your boat is moored, in case anyone wondered. All the same, if the moisture is dumped all at once as though shot through giant firehoses, it doesn’t always stay where it’s needed but instead causes flash floods, undermines foundations, uproots vegetation and breaks down buildings and roads left and right.

Doesn’t matter what you call it—climate change, global warming, a thirty-year cycle, or evil pixies run amok—the weather all around this wonderful, messy planet is more extreme than it had been for much of recent history. The extremes are more extreme, the heat and cold, the wind and dead stillness, the flooding and droughts. Only the inconsistency of the weather seems to be more, well, consistent.

All somewhat amusing, if the worst one experiences is the occasional sighting of a pigeon flying backward. But of course, that’s the least of it. Ask our neighbors who sustained major damage to house, car and property all at once last week. Ask the people—the peoples—displaced by tornado and typhoon, those who have lost home and family to the floods and famines that massacre everyone in their paths throughout whole regions.

I don’t much care about whether we’re partly to blame for the seeming extra intensity of nature’s capriciousness and fury at this point. It’s not all that different, in my mind, from all of the displacements, distortions and destruction in history that we can absolutely attribute to human invasion, conquest, greed, prejudice, ignorance and evil. As horrible as that stuff all, genuinely, is, it is: it exists, already. What matters is what we do now in order not to perpetuate the ills, and better yet, to mitigate them as best we can. We can’t undo history, and we can’t control nature. But we can and should change our attitudes, practices and beliefs (and the governing processes needed to support those societal improvements appropriately) in whatever ways will support a far better world, one where wars, rape, murder, slavery, thievery, violence and all sorts of other horrible human actions are not only universally condemned but undesirable to enact.

And, since we expect that we, and those generations who succeed us, will continue to need to live on this specific planet and its resources, hadn’t we better think up some less selfish and more practical ways of easing the effects of nature just as much as our effects on it? We won’t likely figure out how to stop the wind from blowing with great intensity, floods from filling valleys, hail from pelting like rocks out of the sky, or lightning from searing and exploding whatever it can lay its fiery fingertip on, but if we put our minds to it, maybe we can think up some reasonable ways to protect more people, and care for those who are affected, better.

I didn’t really start out with the intent of rambling on about this stuff, but it’s on my mind. Probably not so different from the pigeon’s reaction when he discovered his original flight plan wasn’t viable. Can I fly backward? I don’t know. But I’ll bet it’s worth trying, if I find myself needing to make an emergency landing. No matter how the wind is blowing.photo