Thursday, December 10, 2009

Of wind and rain

        The rain set early in tonight,
        The sullen wind was soon awake,
        It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
        And did its best to vex the lake….

So begins Robert Browning’s  “Porphyria’s Lover,” and so it was here earlier this week (except that we don’t have a lake, or many elm trees, for that matter).  The rain was welcome, and we hope for more in the next few days.  Monday morning’s sunrise was promising: “red sky at morning, sailor take warning.”

The wind was spectacular.  I’d taken down the patio umbrellas earlier, or who knows where that gale might have deposited them.  It woke us in the middle of the night with its rushing and pounding; strong winds are not uncommon here, but this was exceptional.  I welcomed all of it.  When we first moved to Tucson a neighbor told me that no matter how much we water, everything responds more dramatically to natural rain, and he was right. The late-planted snow peas I’d almost despaired of have finally come up (though not the fennel or the second planting of mesclun. By taking the “cut and come again” approach we’ll have plenty of salad greens with what we’ve already got, and the new seeds may yet sprout.  I will be quite disappointed, though, if we don’t get any fennel).

The gray morning on Tuesday really brought back memories of California's north coast and made me more than a little nostalgic, although Tucson has been home for more than seventeen years now.  As you can see, the fence boards are stained with rain and it’s definitely winter, even though the mesquite trees still have most of their leaves. The little fig tree has lost nearly all of its, but next spring’s buds are already visible at the tips of the branches.  It’s so grounding, so life-affirming to slow down enough to notice the seasonal changes in the natural world.  The bare fig branches brought to my mind another poem, this one by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

The first rose on my rose-tree
     Budded, bloomed, and shattered,
During sad days when to me
     Nothing mattered.

Grief of grief has drained me clean;
     Still it seems a pity
No one saw—it must have been
     Very pretty.

It matters, I think, that we stop to listen to the wind and that we pay attention to the roses and the fig buds, the scarlet sunrise, the small seedlings as they push their way up through the earth. It matters very much.

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