Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WAITING FOR RAIN

The sky grows dark and the buzzards come home.
I’ve spent the past half hour sitting in the rocking chair on my side-yard deck, waiting for a grumbling mass of black clouds marching in from the west to materialize into rain.
Circling a time or two…
I came outside from my study when the afternoon sunshine suddenly winked out. A transition just that abrupt…bright one moment, dark the next. A second or two later thunder rumbled in the distance.
…to show off their aerial prowess.
As a kid, I used to grab one of my mother’s quilts and head for the front porch whenever I thought a thunderstorm was imminent. Since our house faced west, the direction from which most thunderstorms came, I usually had a great view of any oncoming storm. On the downside, the porch, about an eight-by-ten foot affair sheltering the front door, had an overhanging roof but no sort of screening or sidewall protection. Hence the quilt, though that was good only for the most minor storms. I’d begin stormwatching in one of the chairs, or perhaps on the big three-cushion glider—which, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is a sort of couch that moves (glides) back-and-forth; a moving porch-seating alternative to a rocker or swing. Either place was fine so long as it was just wind coming in. But once the rains arrived, I soon had to stand and flatten myself against the wall of the house. Of course, it didn’t take much wind and blowing rain to make this refuge equally untenable…whereupon I was forced to retreat inside and do my storm watching from behind the screen door—or until rain began blowing through the mesh and onto Mom’s gleaming oak floor. At that point parental authority was invoked—the storm door was closed, the damp quilt confiscated, and I had to get my storm-watching thrills through a windowpane. However, neither maturity nor common sense has cured me from my love of storm-watching. Which is why I ensconced myself on the deck a while back with high hopes of seeing a bit of spring weather drama. The local weather oracles have been predicting rain for the past three days. Like too many modern diviners, though, they’re apparently unskilled in the foretelling arts—full of promise and short on delivery. It did rain last night, but only a little. Not enough to discolor the river or water the roses, although I have no doubt it was more than sufficient to encourage the grass to quickly grow several inches. For a while I had high hopes. The sky turned an ominous charcoal-gray, the hue of a day-old bruise. The wind was swirling around, carrying a breath of cool dampness. Four Canada geese came whipping in, honking loudly, feet out. The big birds made a noisy and not very graceful splashdown, then settled on the rocky bar just across from the cottage. They did seem encouragingly apprehensive about the coming storm, holding their heads high on upstretched necks, looking this way and that constantly. The thunder to the west grew much louder, until it became an almost a constant growling; a great angry beast just over the horizon and heading my way. More encouraging still. Then the buzzards came sailing home—coming in fast from all quadrants, swirling around a pass or two in the looming sky above the island, just enough to show off their aerial prowess, before quickly finding a sheltered roost in one of the big sycamores. Oh, ho, I thought. Here it comes! Confound it, no! A few drops pattered on the roof and deck planks. The wind began whipping the drops into my face and, more importantly, onto my camera. I momentarily deserted my post long enough to stow the photo gear just inside the cottage’s front door. The rain began pouring down…and then just quit. Staring out the opened door, I saw the sky’s dark lid slide away like an auto’s sunroof. Bright sunlight beamed down. The moistened grass sparkled…and doubtless invigorated, began instantly redoubling its growing efforts. I felt cheated, robbed of a deliciously anticipated pleasure. The turkey vultures appeared equally let down. I could see them sitting dejectedly in the top of the greening sycamores. They’d also been fooled by the muttering front—enough to come hustling home, giving up whatever roadkill or tasty bit of offal they’d planned for supper. And for what? Little more than a 20-second shower; probably not enough to wet their feathers. I waved at my black-robed neighbors across the stream. “We all got bamboozled this time around,” I called over to them. The quartet of geese on the rock bar honked noisily and took off, flapping hard to get airborne. Back inside, I reminded myself there would be other storms to watch. At least, I thought, my supper was still waiting in the kitchen.

18 comments:

Bernie said...

Oh Riveraze, I too, love a storm and have been known to sit in my car with a cup of coffee watching the fork like lightening, so unbelieveable and beautiful.
Last night we had a huge thunder/ lightening storm, the rain poured down and our power went out. The power was out for a short time only but the storm lasted for a couple of hours before it grumbled it's way off toward the East.....I was snug, warm and left my window opened to listen to the sounds and enjoy the smells of freshly mowed lawns and perfumed flowers, it smelled so "CLEAN" and I loved it.....:-) Bernie

Rowan said...

Lovely piece of descriptive writing Scribe, unlike you I would have retreated right inside. I agree that storms are spectacular and beautiful to watch but having narrowly escaped being struck by lightning a few years ago I get a tad nervous these days I'm afraid.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I do love storm watching. And I can't tell you how many times throughout the years I've driven to a high hill with a good westerly view from the top, parked my pickup, and watched a storm come flashing and thundering right at me…and more than once taken along a thermos to sip!

Thank you for writing—and by the way…

Happy Birthday!

Wanda said...

Wonderful post again that brings to mind so many great memories...like playing in "vast" water puddles when a child...right along with the frogs that suddenly appeared...I use to walk in the rain and record the sounds and sights of the rising creek...I love thunderstorms...although one last June brought severe tree damage with it...storms can be peaceful or frightening...seems we are instore for storms today...an opportunity for you to wait and see again.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

Nothing wrong with a good healthy dose of respect around lightening. I've been scared silly myself plenty of times. And I've read Gretel Ehrlich book, "A Match to the Heart," which ought to put fear into anyone's understanding of lightening's dangers.

Over the years I've been caught on lakes and streams, in the woods, on wide beaches and the open prairie. Sometimes I could find a fairly safe shelter, sometimes there was nowhere to hide, or I couldn't get back to shore in time. Then, I just had to hunker down or literally flatten myself in a ditch and endure, terrified or not. With a couple of horrific lightening storms there have been strikes so close to me that I could feel my hair stand and smell the ozone, or actually saw a bolt cleave a tree in half. Storm lover that I still am, I do know the very real danger. I'm as serious as I can be when I say only God's grace has gotten me through several storms unharmed.

Jayne said...

I am not much of a storm lover, and find myself still cringing with loud thunderclaps. My Sam used to be really afraid of them, but more so because he feared the power would go out. I am calmed by the fact that I know they are always moving... away. :c)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

In the house where I grew up, there was a tiny seasonal creek—which we called "the ditch"—across the road. Whenever it rained all the neighborhood kids would run out to play in the rising water. If the culvert which carried the little creek under the road got plugged up, the creek's water would back up and—if the rain was heavy enough—eventually flood the corner of a neighbor's yard. This provided a great knee-deep wading and splashing pond.

I too remember rains which brought out the frogs…especially the penny-size tree frogs which washed out of trees and occasionally littered the ground underneath by the hundreds.

It is gray and dark here this morning. I'll just have to wait and hope and see what the weather brings.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

I keep watching those "storm chasers" shows on cable and thinking…wow, I'd really love to do that! But I also understand not everyone shares this passion. And that's okay. My daughter doesn't care for ice cream, which I simply can't fathom, and I think rap music is an oxymoron.

On the other had, we often lose the power hereabouts for a few hours or even a few days, usually in the winter. Except for not being able to get online unless I'm willing to take the laptop and drive somewhere, I get a kick out of the experience. I break out the candles and kerosene lamps—or the propane camp lantern if I need a lot of light—heat with the fireplace, cook on the camp stove, and huddle cozy and happy, feeling adventurous and self-sufficient. No power…no problem!

We're all made up differently, individuals, unique, which is the beauty and joy of life.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

I read the "River-gift" as well. Lovely photo of your river's gift to you of the beautiful Iris. And that you see it as a gift warms my heart.

And this post with those 'ominous photos'? Are you in my back yard? :-)
I love your childhood memories of 'storm watching' and that 'the kid in you' is still so alive and well today!!
Great posts and wonderful photos.

Love you
Gail
peace.....

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Scribe - the weather is always fickle. I love storms too - as a child I used to sit in the window and watch the huge rain drops bounce on to the road outside - my mother called them dancing fairies.
Have you noticed that the grass on the lawn grows twice as fast as the grass in the fields (we have to mow the lawn - we are waiting for the field grass to grow long to make hay) - another example of that fickleness - love it!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

There's a gray sky here today, too—not very ominous, but dark. No rain yet, however.

I do try an keep in touch and listen to my inner child, who is indeed still around and living in my heart after all these years…although sometimes I have to kick his aging, lazy butt out of bed and make him quit whining about things.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

A lot of us outdoor/country minded folks seem to love storms and to have always been drawn to them—the raw power and dramatics, thunder and lightning and downpouring rain. The revelation of pure nature on the prowl.

I have noticed the difference between lawn a pasture grass. When I used to have a horse, it seemed like the grass around the house grew three times a fast as the grass in the pasture behind the barn where I kept him stabled. Never could figure that out. But more than once I brought him into the yard and let him graze on the lush new grass…and got out of mowing. A real twofer!

Carolyn H said...

Griz: You have sky! I'm envious of that. I love snowstorms of virtually any stripe, but I'm not particularly fond of thunderstorms. Having the house hit by lightning when I was a kid kind of cured me of that, I think.

Carolyn H.

Gail said...

Hi again-

Men are more often than not reluctant to identify with their inner child. You are a rare breed, indeed. And it is wonderful. :-)
am so in touch with the kid in me - she is quite the rebel, trouble-maker so to speak - my fight-my fury-my courage-my play .....

Her name? Annie.

Love Gail/Annie
peace and mischief

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

Well, I can sure see where having your house struck by lightening might put you off thunderstorms. But I just love 'em all, thunderstorms and blizzards.

An older friend used to have this tiny cabin down in the hill country, way back in a holler where you had to walk in. I think it was 10x12 feet. About big enough to, as they say, swing a cat in. Had a single bunk, a shelf for a camp cookstove, a small table, one chair. Heat was a little sheepherder's stove. I used to love to hole up there during bad weather—snug, dry, warm. I've stayed in it at 20 below and during some of summer's most violent thunderstorm imaginable…and I just loved it. I'd read, write, tye flies, and look out.

The friend's been gone 30 years now; the kids let the cabin rot. But I'd give anything to have another "hole up" place to retreat to a few times a year when life began closing in…and somewhere to go when a storm was brewing.

BTW…still gray sky…still no rain.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I have no trouble with my inner child, it's the inner adult that gives me problems. :-))

Jain said...

Bring it on! Thunder, lightning, hail, power outage, rising water, the whole she-bang. Puts me in my proper place with Nature.

You took me back to storm watching from my childhood farmhouse: rising creek, splashing in the flooded ditch, porch swing, and all. Thank you!

We had a good soaker Tuesday (-ish; I’m on vacation so can’t tell one day from the next). No drama, just a steady downpour that totaled a much needed 1.25”. I wish you rain!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Still dark, gloomy, buzzard-hunkerin' weather here, sans rain. I'm digging a flower bed. Can't decide whether to speed up or slow down.

Vacations are always better when you forget the days. Glad I took you back to other days and times.