A day for staying indoors and choosing a new theme for your Google homepage.
If you can stay awake.
For anyone who hasn’t heard the shouts of wild rejoicing, here’s the latest weather report:
Shortly after 1:00 a.m., thunder rumbled and the skies opened.
And once more the humble little cenizo proved itself a prophet: a harbinger of rain.
Forgive the purple prose; I’m still a touch giddy.
A piece of lore I picked up in my youth went like this: In Texas, it doesn’t rain at night in June.
When I was nine or ten and had had several years to ponder the statement, I pointed out that I’d awakened in the night and heard rain falling on the roof.
Of course, someone would say. That was after midnight, which means it was morning. Because in Texas, it doesn’t rain at night in June.
Some parts of Central Texas had as much as 3.5 inches this morning. Austin proper didn’t get that much. The airport, several miles west, got an inch and a half. I don’t think my part of town did that well. But we’re grateful for what we got. It cooled things down.
In my family, rain always brought the same response. My father herded us into the car so we could drive around and see the results. Were the ditches full of water? Was it standing in the fields? Did it rain on York Creek as much as it did closer to town? We could spend hours on a Sunday afternoon, exploring the back roads, speculating on what the precipitation would do to grass, cotton, corn, maize…whatever happened to be growing at the time.
(Note: In those days, I didn’t always appreciate the finer points of rainfall. I usually sat in the back seat with my nose in a book.)
Once my family joined my uncle and aunt on a Sunday afternoon tour of the wetlands. We passed property belonging to one of the town’s more outspoken citizens–in fact, this citizen had for several months been saying some undeservedly nasty things about my uncle, day after day, in his presence (that’s another story). He was a public servant and generally mild-mannered, so he never responded. But his good nature was beginning to fray.
When we reached the gate, he stopped the car, hopped out, and made his way through puddles to the fence, where the rain gauge held a couple of inches of water. He took the gauge off its stand, filled it with water from the ditch, and set it back in place.
He came back to the car grinning. “Tomorrow old Soandso will come into the post office telling how she got over six inches out at her place.”
In other words, if you can’t–or are too much of a gentleman to–lick ’em, just play a practical joke.
That was over forty years ago. Some people I know are still laughing.
My community theater debut came the year tee-shirts read, I Survived the Summer of 1980.
That was a bad one, weather-wise. It was hot and dry. No rain, no time, no how.
I spent June and most of July, four evenings a week, in the auditorium of a San Marcos junior high school.
At the director’s signal, the lead tenor ambled onstage singing:
Overhead the sun is shining
Not a cloud across the sky
Not a sign on the horizon
And it’s gonna be another hot day
Underneath, the earth is burning
Crops is bad and land is dry
Still the sun
Keeps on returnin’
and it’s gonna be another hot day
Then the chorus, of which I was a member, ambled on after him:
Yes, it’s gonna be another hot day.
We sang a lot about heat. We sang a lot about rain, too.
None of us had to be told to move slowly or to look tired and sweaty and miserable. Except for a set of double doors on each side, the auditorium was sealed shut. No breeze swept through. Until opening night, the air conditioner stayed off.
The play in rehearsal was 110 in the Shade, Tom Jones’ and Harvey Schmidt’s musical adaptation of The Rainmaker.
In every night’s backstage conversation, someone noted the irony of our situation. A college girl said, “Wouldn’t it be neat if it doesn’t rain all summer, and then, on opening night, at the very end of the last act, when sound-effect thunder begins to rumble, rain begins to pour down outside?”
We forgave her the thought. She was young, and heat had obviously addled her brain. In addition, it’s always been my policy to cut sopranos of her quality quite a bit of slack.
As it happened, rain spoiled the effect by arriving a few days before the play opened, and by the time we closed, most people skipped the cast party. Drought followed by heavy rain usually equals flooding of area creeks, sometimes of rivers. No one wanted to get caught by high water.
Heat notwithstanding, I loved that summer. The privilege and joy of singing made the discomfort worthwhile. Let me sing and I’ll put up with a lot.
Or I would in 1980. The current summer finds me in a different frame of mind.
The spring of 1980 was relatively cool. Thermometers waited until early June to skyrocket.
This summer began in April. This summer, we’re losing trees. Most of Texas is in extreme or exceptional drought. An arborist told one of my friends that we’ll be seeing the effects for years to come. Wildfires cover the state. The Llano River is drying up, and with it that area’s source of water. And then there are the farmers and ranchers, and the crops and the livestock. And the people who live without anything to cool their houses. Family Eldercare is once again collecting fans for people who can’t afford fans or air conditioning.
Technically, we’re now in the midst of a cold front: highs are between 95 and 99, two-digits temps until next Monday. Tomorrow and Thursday, there’s a slight chance of rain.
I confess–every time the local weatherman predicts that chance of rain, I laugh. Bitterly. Derisively.
Then today, I saw cause for hope: the cenizo is blooming. A hedge bordering a little strip mall just a mile or so from my house bears a dozen or so little purple flowers.
Google cenizo and you learn the shrub blooms after a rain.
Ask me, and you learn it blooms before. I know. I’ve been watching it for years.
This afternoon, when I saw those purple petals, I got so excited, I came close to running the car right up onto the sidewalk.
One swallow doesn’t make a spring, of course, nor do a dozen flowers make a deluge.
But tomorrow I’ll drive down to check on their progress, perhaps get out and take a more exact count. And hope those flowers contain a message:
It’s gonna rain
All through the mornin’.
It’s gonna rain
All through the night.
It’s gonna rain
All day tomorrow!
And Lord God A-mighty.
Now won’t that be a sight!
Image of cenizo (purple sage) by J.M.Garg (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons