Two days of steady rain have left the city sodden. I am feeling the effects of slumped shoulders and the vertebrae in my lower back have been gabbing more than usual. I look to my right at the brooding Lake Geneva, compare it with the graying of the sky. On cue, someone, perchance looking down at the sogginess, proclaims in a knowing voice that the farmers really do need the rain. I believe the line always begins with a well and a short pause and may require a knowing nod of the head around the silence following the period.
I do not know that this about the farmers is true nor that it is untrue but I did hear the line often enough when I was a boy to know that it is believed to be true by most. No one ever knew how much rain the farmers actually needed at one time or another, nor did anyone know a farmer who said he needed the rain in a bad way, but everyone seemed assured that, yes, the farmers needed the rain and now was as good a time as any for this need to be met. Some rhyme about corn runs on well ahead of memory.
There may have been a few exceptions to the almanac line about needful rain such as when the rain was too plentiful that spring or early summer. Then I don’t recall people saying that the farmers needed sun. Maybe this is because sun is a given in most parts where crops are grown each year and maybe it is also because sun falls plentifully like love.
I once told a conversation partner that, when life is going well, the ground seems made for giving. If the ground were to have a reason for being, I would venture it would be to give our steps a light-handed lift, a gentle upward leavening. Year after year, forgiving ground hums the same tune our feet do while unforgiving ground seems to hold our feet in place like mud and fog and marshland.
Florida was once marshland and still there are reminders. My mom used to travel by car with her parents to Florida. They would pack up the car and head to Florida, there where they grew oranges and mosquitos and sand. Where my parents now live in Florida, there is an ocean on one side and a marshy river on the other. Their home straddles, does a balancing act, sitting high above as if on stilts. Dressed in pink the color of salmon, the condo would walk happily like a crane if it had its druthers. No question but that it would hold fish in its mouth and stand on one leg and then, hearing commotion nearby, would stir itself to take flight.
Yesterday morning there was a moment, as there most always is, when the rains died down and the birds piped up. “The birds,” I tweeted on key, “have taken the reprieve from raining as an invitation to flutter and share notes. One asks, ‘The breeze is feathery, isn’t it now?'”
To which the other, who’s just now got the hang of it, replies, “Suppose so. My leathery coat is beginning to wear itself into a handbag.”
“A handbag, you say? When I travel, I keep all my valuables on my person.”
The breeze picks up and, taking one long look at me, the birds hightail outta here on toward their pick of bounding rivers, their few remaining words becoming sodden with the newly falling rain. I hope the farmers, those humble one percenters whose prayers have been heard these past two days, are pleased with this forgiving sky.
Andrew Taggart, “Childhood as Spiritual Exercise: Peter in Snowy Day“