It’s been raining and miserable here lately. When you work in agriculture you keep up with the weather. You watch the lady on TV at 5:30 AM who is wrong about half the time. You check the radar on your phone and look for a clearing. You watch the sky and keep your head down on days like this. Your rain suit is wet. Your boots are wet. Max is soaking wet, but he still follows me every step I take around the tree farm.
My Dad used to call me every day. Shortly after 7:00 in the morning, the phone would ring. He had one thing on his mind. Comparing notes on the current weather conditions.
“Hey Dad. You doing okay this morning?”
No chit-chat. He ignores my question. “How much rain did you get last night.”
“I’ve got an inch in the gauge, but it’s still raining.”
“You didn’t get all that much. I’ve got over 2 inches here.”
“You’re not complaining, are you?”
He glosses over my jab. “How cold is it down there?”
“The temperature on my truck said 42° when I opened the gate this morning.”
“Boy, that’s a cold rain. I’ll talk to you later.” Click.
That was it. The daily 60 second weather conversation. In the summertime it was more about heat, humidity and pasture grasses that were burned to a crisp.
Back in the 80s when I was working landscape maintenance in Atlanta, the rain hardly ever slowed us down. Schedules couldn’t wait. I always got a chuckle out of the office-cubical-folks who walked by me during the day. If it was a gorgeous March day, 72°, the sun shining, Forsythia in bloom, Okame Cherry in full glory, someone would always say to me, “Man, I would love to have your job. Must be great to get to work outside all the time.” They said the same thing in October. But no one ever said that to me in January or August. They just ran for cover and got into their climate controlled cars.
I actually welcome the rain. Getting enough rain is way better than no rain. I’ve been to a desert or two. I saw a dust storm blow through El Paso one time, and it wasn’t pretty. Not like the green and the smell of Georgia in spring. I like lakes at full pool. I like the creeks that run and ripple with the extra push of water. I like the sound of the wet woodlands. Water dripping off limbs long after the rain has stopped. On my nighttime walks with Max the peepers and critters are already singing their songs.
My Mama always said that the rain washes everything clean. Here in a few weeks, we’ll need that. Serious amounts of pollen are about to fall on us. Every car and truck covered in a yellow blanket. Every flat surface becomes a collection point for the dust that never stops. Trees and bushes having wild and untamed sex, exploding yellow clouds of reproductive fodder to the wind, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Noses clog up. Dew covered windshields streak up with yellow muck. You think about washing your vehicle, but you go back inside and make a PBJ and watch March Madness instead. And, God forbid you get out the lawn mower. Cooped up inside all winter. Dying to get outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your shoulders. You ride around in a cloud of yellow that kind of looks like a dust storm from El Paso.
Then the rain comes and washes it all down. It’s not really clean, just pushed around and weighted down with water. Yellow sludge stuck to your wiper blades. Odd-shaped puddles in your driveway with a yellow halo around the edge. But at least the yellow cloud disappears for a day or so. Even people who hate the rain are glad to see it take a shot at all the pollen.
I was inspired last Saturday to wash my truck. Mud packed up inside the wheel wells. Nasty road grime splattered all down each side. It is a work truck. There is plenty of mud at the farm. I know it won’t last long but I had had enough of it. More than I could tolerate.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but these days I need special tools to wash this thing. A stepstool helps me reach the high stuff. I never was very tall. My wife bought a carwash spongy hairy thing on an extension rod. This tool is like the best thing since sliced bread. The hardest part is stooping down to scrub the hard-stuck-on stuff at the bottom of the doors. I bend over, and I run out of breath. I squat and my knees give out. Washing a vehicle used to be easy.
When I’m done, my formerly brown truck is white again. I don’t remember it being this white. The sun is out. I have to squint my eyes to look at it. I drive it to church on Sunday without being embarrassed parking next to the guy whose truck is always clean. Then . . . I drive home that afternoon in the rain. It didn’t last even 24 hours.
Riding in the rain is good for one thing. I’m listening to Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. “Georgia on My Mind”. Hank Sr., “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. The old 60s tune, “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain”, which had to have been written in a car with the wipers on, keeping perfect time like a metronome on a blue day.
I turn off the paved road and onto my driveway where mud lives. Potholes and washes with red dirt. Willie is singing. “Georgia, sweet Georgia. The whole day through.” I notice the Forsythia beginning to bust out. Mama had one right at the end of the walk to the front door. Across the way, my Spirea is just starting to show ten thousand little white flowers. Mama had one next to the back porch. I am connected to my past.
I get out of my truck. The fragrance of Winter Honeysuckle is sweeter than honey. I stand in the rain for a moment listening. Breathing. Feeling the earth do its thing. The same thing it’s been doing since the beginning of time. I look at the mud all down the side of my truck. And I’m okay with that.
Today the sun is out. The perfect spring day ahead of pollen madness. By summer we’ll be hot as Hades and wishing for rain. As school kids, we used to chant, “Rain, rain go away; come again some other day.” Not me, at least, not anymore. I have found it’s best to take the sunshine with the rain. To realize that all days are made for things to smile about.