At daybreak, calm. A big storm had come overnight, one of those thunderous commotions that sent great flashes out of the sky and ripped through the trees and sent the rain whipping down in wide sheets. The storm left us expecting at least a foot in the gauge. The gauge told us otherwise: half an inch. We were grateful.
Our large sturdy gauge, on a steel post north of the house, had been dry for several months. Then, blessings: In April it collected 5.375 inches of rain. Last month, 6.0125 inches. It rained seven times in April and eight in May, most of it coming in the last two weeks of each month. And each month ended with a big one (or two). On April 29 over night into the 30th, it rained 2.125 inches. Last month, on the 26-27th, 2.15 inches; on May 30-31, another 1.125 inches.
About those decimals: They’re mine, through the precise science of eyeballing a red disc quivering atop the liquid, squinting at the gauge’s vivid, quarter-inch markings. Rain here often accumulates in ragged bursts. It frequently comes overnight, when people are asleep, deaf to the reassuring drum roll of a steady drizzle. The gauge tells us what we missed.
This May was moist, but May a year ago was wet. Our records show we had 10.2 inches that month. It came mostly by intermittent showers and the occasional steady drizzle but began with a big one ‒ 2.8 inches overnight into May 5; the next day, 3/8 inch; a couple of days later, a quarter-inch, then half an inch, and so forth. It rained 12 times during that month and after that first spell, only three rains were an inch or more; the rest were the kind of pleasant shower farmers pray for in August.
This spring has given us the finest kind of weather – enough moisture to keep things damp, and good sun, the kind that doesn’t (yet) blister, a package that pleases the urban crowd, we who delight in our little beds of leafy sprouts, emerging buds and blooms with their promise of color and majesty.
The farmers and ranchers who grow things for a living haven’t been all that pleased ‒ a wet field is a bother, atop muddy roads and swampy ditches, muck, mosquitoes and more ‒ but so far they have held any complaints to a murmur.
Our flower beds and others’ seem to bustle, their many shapes and textures bringing out the simplest features and most complex patterns. There are plants for shade, and for sun, each with separate quirks and needs, some demanding attention, like a finicky child, others requiring an occasional nudge, and elsewhere the independents preferring solitude, life with no interruption.
This is political season as well, and we may view the plant world like the people world, full of surprise and contradiction: the bell-shape foxglove bloom belies its lethal leaf; the reassuring splendor of roadside sunflower is maligned by ordinance as a weed; the majesty of its flower confutes the cunning and malice of bindweed.
Rain and the plant world have set to their busy ways. That leaves the people world to sort through it all. Even learn something.
‒ JOHN MARSHALL