Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doing the Rain Dance

by Zinta Aistars

Before heat wave
After heat wave

For a moment, the skies open. A steady rain comes down, and I run from my century-old farmhouse out into my enclosed porch, and dance. One does rain dances to seduce the skies to spill life-giving water, but I dance now for sheer joy. For well over a week, the temperatures have soared to a blistering 100, even 103 degrees Fahrenheit, heat index as high as 111 degrees, and the sky remained blue, blue, blue.

Now the rain splashes to the ground, and I can smell its fresh, wet scent through the screen surrounding the porch. I can hear its song. I can hear the rustle of dry leaves and grass as the rain comes down. I can hear the earth humming in relief.

Too long since we have been blessed with rain, and the forecast for the week to come is no better. Cooler, yes, but no rain for a while yet. My lush Z Acres has turned from emerald green to pale yellow. Once green grass now crackles beneath my feet when I venture outside to water my parched vegetable garden. The garden is the only spot of life behind my house. All else is dry and wilted and colorless.

I never get cabin fever in the winter, because winter never keeps me inside. I can always pull on another sweater, double layer my woolen socks, choose a warmer coat and wrap my scarf around and around my neck to keep me toasty warm.

But this? This sweltering and blistering heat? It takes my breath away, and not for joy. When I open the kitchen door for just a moment to let my old chow pup outside to relieve himself, the thick and milky air squeezes the oxygen from my lungs and leaves me gasping. My chest hurts. My face flushes. And that is just in the moment of opening the door and quickly slamming it shut again. The dog quickly returns from his business and asks to be let in.

Summer is my least favorite season, and my comfort zone melts away as temperatures rise above 65 degrees or so. The older I get, the cooler I like it. While others retire to warmer climes, I have always eyed the wild north. Only now, since I have moved to these ten acres in southwest Michigan, has my wanderlust cooled its heels. I have found Home, and it is surprisingly cool, the little red farmhouse set into a secluded valley and surrounded by thick woods, only the back five acres open for tilling and crops.

I am incredulous at how cool the house remains. I figured adding central air conditioning would be my first home repair upon moving, but with pleased amazement, I have realized I won’t need it here. Not even in this hell-heat. Suburbia has done itself an immense disfavor, clearing away trees and leveling rises in the earth. That is precisely what is saving so much energy for me here. I run a ceiling fan in the living room and a small window unit in my loft bedroom, and I’m set. Those who know my near legendary intolerance of heat know these are words of high praise. Nature knows how to care for itself; we are wise not to interrupt its healing and balanced ways.

Only in the earliest hours of the morning, as the sun just begins to rise, do I dare to go out. I need to go out. I long to go outside, and breathe, and connect with this wonderful world in which I now find myself—so blessed. Every dawn, I go outside to water my vegetable garden, examining the row of tomato plants, each one of the dozen a different variety. I peer at the beans, take a sniff at the two types of basil—oh, what a beautiful smell that is!—and grin in satisfaction over the peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, red cabbage and eggplant. It’s a small garden this first summer here. I am already preparing to expand next summer, tossing grass clippings and compost and hay over a large square on one side where I plan to till up the ground next spring.

One of my favorite spots, by the pond in my front yard
There has been so much to learn this first year—about the farmhouse, the land, the woods, living in such seclusion and aiming for increasing sustainability. All roads to this place lead to independence, and the land has so inspired me, affected and strengthened me, that I recently made yet another decision for yet another leap of faith. I am about to leave the steady and more-or-less secure (is anything, really?) world of working for a large corporation. I am going to start my own business, a writing and editing firm I am thinking of calling …. Z Word? What do you think? Hmmmmm.

It seems to fit. All parts of my life at long last integrated. My life on Z Acres, my work at Z Word, my artwork signed with a simple little flourish: Z.

At last, I belong. In a place I have created, have been creating since I was a little girl, with first seeds of first dreams rooting and sending up a first green sprout of a leaf.

Rain comes down, washing the earth clean of its dust, returning life to the dry grass and withered leaves of the trees. It stops too soon, the earth still clamoring for more, but it is enough to return hope for cooler, more refreshing days.

When my son drops by a few days later to bring the riding mower to life with a roar, the earth is dry again, and the fields of grass rather like hay. I watch the dust swirl up behind and around him, a golden cloud enfolding him as he circles the field, the sun starting to dip toward the horizon behind him.

I suppose there is a beauty even in this—the parched heat, the dry days of holding in one’s breath, waiting to exhale. I watch him, and I can tell he is enjoying his work, carving pathways through the field, even roaring up the hill through the woods to create a path to the cottage I have up there. The dust pastes itself to my skin as I stand watching, one hand shading my eyes from the sun.

Soon, I know, the rain will return. And so will the cool. And the green. It must. With it, I will take long, deep breaths and fill my lungs, feeling life return to my entire body, head to toe. Shake off the lethargy of these long, hot days. Take that next leap—and see how it feels to catch the cool wind, and fly.

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