Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Rain in Spain - or Arizona

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree.
It falls on the umbrellas here
And on the ships at sea.

Some of my favorite nursery rhymes are those I learned as an adult, when I became a mother and allowed myself to indulge once again in childish pursuits. And a lovely wet day like today certainly tempts me to out and stomp in puddles!  The  weather prediction for today was strangely specific: rain by noon and clearing by 5:00.  The rain arrived precisely on time but hung around a couple of hours longer than expected.  We'd driven down to Tubac, about 50 miles south of Tucson, and when we started home at about 5;45, a dark curtain of rain completely obscured the hills to the north. By the time we got to Tucson (after a shopping stop halfway), the rain appeared to have just stopped; the gutters were still running.  This picture wasn't taken today, but the snow on the mountains earlier today looked just as it does here.
When the desert smells like rain, there's nothing that can compare.  Metaphors and similes are inadequate, flabby and weak. Still, some of us can't help trying.  This is something I wrote a couple of years ago, when a hard summer monsoon left the normally dry Santa Cruz River running  hard and muddy.  I'd forgotten about it until the recent rains and a morning spent perusing old files brought it to the surface, rather like some of the things I saw floating down the river that day.  Today's rains, and those in recent weeks, have been gentler female rains, and the gardens are appreciating them.


An inch of rain has fallen since last night,
and still it falls
like silver from a jackpot. 
If I close my eyes
I smell forest
and the sea by my old home,
resin, salt, cattle in long wet grass,
and just outside the door,
buttercups up to my knees. 

Today the desert feels like that,
as if its starved soil could be rich and black,
its splintered fences  overgrown with berries.

Today the river’s bleached baked channel
runs full, as once it did,
when women did their washing there,
when children tumbled on its banks
and startled silver minnows in the rushes,
before clumsy upstart cities
sucked up the water,
before freeways,
when there was no sound
save for the sighing river,
women’s voices,
children’s laughter,
warm soft winds in trees and rushes,
the short sudden flutter of wings
and the burbling call of quail.

This is what I saw from my backyard about a week ago, a pale rainbow in a still-gray sky, fences dark, soaked with rain, desert trees with just a few leaves from last fall and new leaf bumps ready to pop out in spring green.  And then I looked down and saw the pot of gold not quite at the end of the rainbow.
These cheddar cauliflower heads are twice as big now; I plan to harvest the biggest one sometime this week. I've never grown cauliflower before, but its cousins--kale, bok choy, broccoli rabe--have all done well so this year I got brave, and it seems to have paid off.  We'll get about 6 heads from the 25 seeds in the packet, enough to claim success, I think. Certainly enough to try again next year.

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