The Sage’s Wisdom. Or Not.

It is a mid-July Sunday in central Texas. The streets are quiet, the two neighborhood pools half filled with families doing family things. This summer’s weather conversation is as follows: It’s hot, says one person.

Yes, comes the reply, but we were lucky this year. It didn’t start till late.

[End of conversation.]

It appears that in an effort to amuse the editorial staff, the weather page of the local rag has been turned over to interns. Either that or our local rag has finally become even worse than the worst city newspaper in the world, which doesn’t seem possible. But it reminds me of something grandboy #2 said the other day when I expressed the hope that his big brother wouldn’t have as hard a time with his teacher this coming school year as he had last year.

I don’t think it will be as worse, said Cooper.

That’s always my hope about our local rag, and yet it’s always at least as worse. But I digress.

What I mean to say is that over the past several weeks, the “5-Day Forecast” has been posting 80-90% chances of rain every weekend. See? They seduce us into starting our week with hope, maybe thinking we won’t be as mean to each other in traffic. By Wednesday, the rain chances are 30-40%. By Friday, the chances are 0%. But this is not a problem since it’s the weekend, and who wants rain on the weekend? This tactic has probably saved the weather staff from listening to a whole lot of complaints. Good for you, interns. I hope someone toys with your affections every week for the rest of your life.

Atmospheric Mendacity

We can’t trust clouds to help us. For the past several years we’ve been stuck in a terrible drought. Extremely promising clouds come in, the humid air hangs in suspense; we may even see lightning off in the distance. A little north of us, Dallas floods. South of us, San Antonio floods. To the southeast, Houston floods. We get…nothing. Clouds are liars.*

I saw the first signs of a possible change yesterday. I wanted to write about it immediately but of course that would be very bad luck. Trying to trust the newspaper’s dire predictions, I had turned the automatic sprinklers off for our watering day, certainly spitting in the eye of fortune. Or it would have been, if my mouth weren’t too dry to spit. I probably should have washed my car and parked it with all the windows open. So if this week’s forecast turns out to be just another tissue of lies, blame me for jinxing our chances.

But yesterday I saw flowers on the Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens, famous predictor of rain). I took my phone across the street to sneak a picture.

It’s not a good picture, but when you are hurrying in and out of your neighbors’ yards you have to take what you can get. Besides, I had quite a bit of ambivalence about the whole enterprise, figuring on the bad luck that heartfelt hopes too often entail.

Getting ready for my bike ride this morning, I thought to minimize the jinx factor by only going out with my phone. No camera. Serious pictures could only cause trouble. I encountered a thrilling proportion of Texas sages that were singing songs of rain like botanical Sirens. The purple blossoms scattered throughout those silvery leaves would be pretty even if they weren’t holding out the promise of anything.

As I pedaled through the neighborhood I calculated roughly 50% agreement among the Texas sages that our rain dreams will soon come true. Even the sage with white blossoms cast a weak but discernible vote:

Since the above sages are all attached to peoples’ yards, I thought it would be prudent to gather some data from a large hedge alongside one of the empty fields, figuring that they would have been denied the benefit of artificial watering. It’s a nice hedge.

Even from here you can see blossoms of hope.

*2:27 p.m. on Sunday July 14th. Hot off the press: my brother-in-law just texted the news that it’s 69 degrees and raining at his house, 200 miles north of here. See what I mean?

PS: At just after 4:00, the skies over our house look like this:

Chance of rain? I’ll keep you posted.

Update! Monday morning, July 15th: Trust the sage.

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