Naturally, I hesitate to wish it would stop raining.
May is often a rainy month here in Central Texas, and in Austin it can be a downright fatal-flood-plagued month. This year it’s just a steady stream of storms, and I don’t even mean to be alliterative. Between storms, the air as humid as a wet cloth on your face, or misted, as if from an atomizer. The lakes are full, the rain barrels are full, the ground is saturated. Runoff continues to seep from hillsides and rush down to street drains.
When the sun does appear, it foretells summer. I know that one day soon we’ll awake to a solid blue sky that will remain relentlessly dry no matter how many fat white clouds decorate its expanse. Moderation is not exactly a specialty of Texas weather.
The best part of all this rain must be the flowers. Flowers everywhere.
They make it difficult to take a walk without stopping a dozen times to grab a photo. I just don’t know how people manage to get along without flowers.
I’ve been thinking lately about my relationship with Nature. Before you run off screaming, hands over your ears, let me assert that this is a suitable area of thought for me because I was an English major who focused on the British Romantic poets, and nature is what they were all about.
I just don’t feel quite as rhapsodic about it as Wordsworth did.
I try to imagine my life in parallel with the seasons, I really do. Autumn-aging-death-Spring-renewal and all that. Something reassuring about cycles, continuity, hope for the future. On bad days I look around this planet and see little cause for hope or optimism of any kind, believing as I do that we humans have just about succeeded in destroying our planet and I’ll be just as glad not to see the end.
On good days I find something pleasing about various aspects the natural world, the Pacific Ocean or our moon for example. They have a nice steadiness about them, with occasional special treats like a super high tide or an eclipse.
But I must say that flowers surprise me every time, and always in a good way. If this madcap little guy below can spring up in a gravelly spot between a garden bed and its steel edging, why should I not thrive?
I imagine it’s easier, having nothing more to do than bob up and down in the breeze in the hope of attracting a honeybee or two, while I have to go out into the world every day and deal with traffic, people, money, and all the aggravations. This flower doesn’t have to hear the roar of trash trucks or smell whatever ungodly nightmare chemical fertilizer my brilliant neighbor has seen fit to spread all over his saturated lawn. (I’ve decided that as soon as we get a breeze from the north, I’m spreading half an inch of compost over mine. Too bad that won’t be much before October.)
See what I mean? I can’t take peace and solace from a little flower for five minutes even when I’m writing about it.
Let us consider for a moment a mere sampling of the flowers encountered by my best buddy Travis and myself on our first walk of this humid morning. It’s a rare yard that has no flowers at all, and I must imagine the residents of such a space are deathly allergic. Or maybe some people don’t possess the disposition to plant something, wait, and then find the period of astonishment too short to bear. For surely that is something we must accept about flowers: their time is short.
Perhaps I should think kindlier thoughts toward my neighbors – there are not many, but there are some – who fill their yards with artificial flowers. Perhaps the very thought of real flowers’ brevity is more than they can stand. Or perhaps there was just a sale at Hobby Lobby.
As I’ve said, though, this has been a Spring that’s brought little cause to complain. Yes, we are all a little moldy around the edges; but we haven’t had even one heat wave yet, so whatever does bloom has remained in bloom much longer than usual. Often by this time of year the roadside is gold grass and sticks. Instead we have wave after wave of wildflowers. This week, Mexican hats preside.
And Gaillardia. Below, along with bee balm, prairie verbena, and little white and yellow daisy-looking things. I really ought to be able to maintain a sunny disposition for much longer than five minutes.
I always wanted to be romantic about magnolias. Everything I’d ever read about them seemed like pure poetry. Something Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote about a magnolia even inspired a favorite image I wrote into a poem years and years ago. She wrote that the magnolia blossoms open from the top down, as a Christmas tree is lighted (back in the day when Christmas trees were lit with candles).
Shamelessly stealing the image, I wrote about a dawn: and birds will wake one by one/ like candles lighted quickly from one flame.
Well, that’s all well and good. Then you have a chance to live with a magnolia tree, and lacking either the wide grove in which Rawlings observed hers, or a yard staff to take care of mundane details, you realize that magnolia trees are doing something messy pretty much 362 days a year. You’re supposed to forgive them because of those flowers.
Trickery, sheer trickery. At least the little wildflowers don’t ask much. Along our highways, huge mowers are currently cutting down wide swaths against the dry days when fire is a constant danger. In the yard they ask hardly anything. I’ll collect dead heads and toss them around, then snip plants to the ground in a mood of appreciation. Next spring, should I live so long, they’ll surprise me again. How do you do that? I’ll ask them, and Travis will cock his head to listen.
But we’re not there just yet.
For now we remain immersed.