After The Rain

Most people probably don’t give grass a great deal of thought or attention. At least not usually. I’m sure I didn’t before we moved to the Central Valley of California.

It always gets hot here, topping 100 degrees for great stretches of the long summers. I remember visiting my grandfather as a child and marveling at the porch thermometer that read 92 degrees at 10 pm.

But we moved here just as this historic drought settled over the state, so it’s not just the heat. It’s that we haven’t seen rain, not more than a sprinkling or a rare ten-minute downpour, at any time of year. The ground is cracked and hose water just rolls into little black snowballs in the dust.

Over the past few weeks, there have been two or three momentous smatterings, so light and brief as to warrant little attention if they weren’t so unusual and so desperately needed. I didn’t think they could possibly ignite life.

The lack of grass, or weeds or wild greenery, has a more profound effect on life and attitude than I would have expected or had ever considered. The dull gray earth here, accentuated by the widespread use of herbicides around the abounding agricultural crops, is numbing. It’s ugly. It’s sad. Our free-range chickens leap into the backyard to eat every green morsel from our garden, and the sheep and goats mope dumbly between feedings.

Last year, in late-winter, a light rainfall extracted a comparable and fleeting flash of green, so I know it won’t last. That’s okay. Our new home will provide us with rain and grass and mushrooms sooner than any California rain will.

And in the meantime, there’s this.

I’m stunned and thrilled that the wild onions held a spark of life all this time. In a few weeks, they’ll be pickled with rosemary and honey.

If the mustard persists, we’ll be enjoying fresh greens soon.

Even an opportunistic squash seed seized the moment of satiety.

And one more survivor I did not expect, a calla lily whose flowers are enormous, dark purple curiosities with large black stamens. It’s been dormant– I thought dead– for two years.

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