A summer heat haze
had settled over the prairie
as I enjoyed the long view
on my way back from town,
late afternoon. An hour before
the sun was due to disappear,
the northern sky had darkened
to winter-storm blue
and the temperature was dropping.

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On the porch
enjoying the reprieve,
the still air seemed chillier,
the sky darkening more,
an eery quiet at the barn
and I suddenly realized I’d better quickly
check to see if all the fowl had gone in for the night,
even though it was too early. A chicken
and guinea, of course,
were pacing outside the pens;
the solar-operated chicken door
was closed.
I opened another gate,
and they hurriedly stepped
into the safety of the barn.
Before I got back to the porch,
rain drops—rain puddles!—
fell on me. It was a downpour
we haven’t seen in years,
let alone
in July! It came hard and fast,
as other parts of Oklahoma
have experienced this summer.
3.2 inches in the gauge this morning;
still cloudy,
cool and breezy,
sprinkles.
We have had rain—an unbelievable,
12 inches in May. The plant growth
is astronomical. Sunflower patches
are high as an elephant’s eye—
to say it in a very, (strangely;
we don’t have elephants here)
Oklahoma sort of way.

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No rain in June,
historically the wettest month.
The ground is hard again.
While sunflower growth is strong
(their roots run deep,)
Ann has been watering newly-planted trees.
So last night’s long storm—
lightning, close; thunder, heart-stopping—
is cause for jubilation.
The birds seem to be singing
louder, clearer—
for all of us.

Steady, all-day rain
has a hint
of romance about it.

I remember
riding a train
from NYC Penn Station
out to New Jersey
to see a dear old friend
on such a day…
The world seemed
to slow down,
grow a little softer.

Even after several days
of rain here at the farm
long ago,
I remember…
the day when the flood waters
inched their way closer
to the old barn
(that has since blown down
in a tornado) and we wondered
if, for the first time
in memory, water
would reach the barn.
Even that day,
rain seemed to round
the sharp corners
of the world
as we stood in rubber boots,
in a soft rain,
helpless, yet at ease,
watching water rise.

Now, after years
of chronic, exceptional drought,
here in Oklahoma
rain has fallen in record amounts
and there is chronic flooding.
We aren’t complaining
much. We value water more
now, even
in extremes. Wiser,
we know, drought
will come again. (More than 18 inches
has fallen so far in Oklahoma City
this month; more than 10 inches
at Turtle Rock Farm.)

A few days ago,
strolling through a flea market
on another unseasonably cool,
rainy day,
I met a woman who asked,
a bit hesitantly:
“Do you like the rain?”
Her question seemed odd
for some reason. I smiled,
perhaps a bit quizzically.
Turns out,
she’s taking a sort of informal poll,
to confirm an observation:
“It seems like people who wear sweaters
love the rain.”

We feared
that the Big Pond
might dry up again,
this summer,
as it did four summers ago.

pond drying out

Last summer, it was way down,
again—water less
than two feet deep.
Pelicans stayed about 10 days,
feasting on easy-pickings.
Algae blossomed,
fish died.
We couldn’t water gardens
(the pump was above the water line.)
We didn’t swim.

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As spring came this year
and the best chances for rain—
May and June—
approached, we weren’t sure
we had the energy
for dashed hopes,
as last spring,
big rains never came.

But they have this year!
And for all our friends
who know the pond,
have grieved the drought with us,
who share our love and concern
for that beautiful pond;
for those who’ve asked how it’s doing,
look:
it’s full,
overflowing!

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Evening Clouds the First Night of This Week’s Storms in Oklahoma

It’s raining again,
early evening. Yesterday, .3;
now, more. I decide to stay with it,
on the front porch, appreciate it deeply,
considering the drought these last
three, four years—maybe still,
don’t know. Five days ago,
in south Oklahoma City,
there was historic flash flooding following
an outbreak of tornadoes and torrential rain—
up to nine inches, maybe more.
Flood and drought
is the natural cycle on the prairie.
We humans have long ago forgotten
that.
But it does appear now
to be extreme: “exceptional
drought,” recalling for us,
hand-me-down memories
of those Dust Bowl Days;
just now too, more intense
rain, flood. I calm myself
on the front porch,
taking in the long-awaited, cherished
moisture,
ready to absorb the sound of rainfall,
(crashing thunder would come later
in the evening, with 1.7 inches total
for the day)
and set my sight on savoring the lush green,
the huge puddles. And then,
just as Earth is about to hide it,
the sun bursts through! Golden light
yanks me from the porch.

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Light rain falls,
but I go out
and watch the river-like torrent
rushing through the pasture. Doe Creek
is out too.

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And then,
in the cloudless eastern blue sky,
a full rainbow. I can see
its complete expanse
and as the western sky turns golden
the rainbow in the east brightens
and glows for a long time,
as if it were stable,
permanent.

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It is that I am to stay with.
There is distant thunder.
The wind picks up again,
from the east—
the direction of the rainbow.
I stand in the road
for the best view,
of lush spring grasses
and wet, golden, dried tall grasses;
listening to frogs sing
and listening to the rainbow—long a sign,
messenger,
to humanity.
One tradition says that the rainbow
is God’s message that any future floods
would not be at the hand of a supernatural
divine one. Hmmm…if so,
must be us, then. Indeed,
coyote howls sound
like a siren,
and rainbow shouts silently:
“RESPECT THE EARTH SYSTEM!”

The rain came—
3.5 inches last night.
It’s been a few years
since we had that much rain
in one day. Water
has filled Doe Creek
and flowed out into the pastures.
With a brisk breeze
there are brown waves
in the green grass.

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The ground makes a watery
sucking sound
when I pull a shovel out,
creating holes to plant
two Loblolly pine trees the Sierra Club
brought during the Earth Day Celebration.
As I return shovel to barn,
fetch sticks to mark the seedlings’
new homes,
Phoebe, perched on the roof of the barn,
calls: “Phoebe.” I look up at her
and she flies and lands again,
nearby: “Phoebe.”

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Back in the house,
later I see her and her partner
checking out a nest on the porch
that two Barn Swallows built last year,
but never used.
Several possible tenants have checked it out,
but no one has taken ownership
yet. It seems too small; must have been
first-time parents,
that Barn Swallow couple. But
wouldn’t the Phoebes be lovely neighbors!

Update:
One of the Phoebes
fetched some sticks and brought
a beakful to the nest.
The other Phoebe sat in the nest
preventing the partner
from leaving the sticks—
or was it grass—
in the nest. There seems
a disagreement
about this real estate.
We shall see…

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It rained in the night—
two inches,
which is a lot
lately; lately
being in the last couple of years.
Must have been more rain upstream
because Doe Creek,
which has been “bone dry,” as we
say around here,
was out of its banks by daylight.
It was a thrilling day.
Rain gushed through outlets
into the Big Pond.
The forecast is for big promises
of rain,
thunderstorms,
all week. Sadie,
who has been walking across the pond,
may be in for a surprise!

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That strip of orange beneath the horizon…that’s water!

By evening,
the orange and pink sky
reflected brightly in standing water
along Doe Creek.
And the little peeper frogs
had come up from the dry places
to sing.

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The prairie grass is greening,
trees along the creek are leafing.
The first greens
are vibrant.
All looks well,
healthy,
on the prairie.
All that new, tender green—
there seems to be water,
somewhere..

The prairie is
like that—
an ecosystem
where plants and grasses adapt
to the cycle of floods and droughts.
During the dry decades, the native species
transfer their sugars and proteins
from their leaves to their deep roots and rhizomes
and live frugally
underground.
With a little rain now and then,
there is greening above the soil.

It’s where humans have inserted ourselves
that we feel the drought:
we plant crops,
build ponds. These are not part
of the natural prairie system,
though essential to our ways.
A glance
at the greening,
at water still shimmering
in some ponds,
and drought conditions
might not be so apparent.
But some ponds are dry,
again.
And look closely at the pond banks
where there still is some water,
and those banks have grown
extensively.
This drought is a long one.
The Big Pond our father built
after the dust bowl days
went dry in July 2011,
for five months. After a few
three-inch rains it filled again.
But we haven’t had a three-inch rain
in a couple of years. We didn’t swim
in the pond last summer,
it was so low. The banks
are rapidly growing wider, drier.
And then one day last week
Ann looked out
and saw Sadie walking
through the water
from one island to another.
She walked across the pond
without getting her back
wet.