I think we’re going to come
to think about rain
differently.
The natural water cycle
of the Great Plains is flood and drought.
Growing up here
we experienced both,
and even though it’s been observed
that the most reliable thing about weather
on the prairie is that it is unreliable,
we have expected and relied on spring rains.
Deep into a two-year drought,
with ponds drying
again
and now, mature trees
dying,
we’re still waiting for
a series of “good spring rains.”
We were ecstatic the time or two
in the last two years
when three inches of rain fell.
But at this point,
to end the drought,
we would need rain after rain,
and then a “gulley-washer.”
Of course,
that could happen,
and we remember
when it has.
I remember a wheat harvest
in the early-80’s
when it rained so many days
for so many weeks
that farmers were still
harvesting mud holes
in mid-July.
But the current prairie water cycle
seems to be that rain arrives
in the fall
instead of spring—
and in smaller amounts.
Here in the northern part of Oklahoma,
it seems “the norm” is that
we get dribs and drabs
rather than gulley washers
or those glorious days-on-end of lighter rain.
These days, storms build all around
and then go around us,
dropping a few drops
or a 1/4-inch,
now and then.
Yesterday, 3/4-of-an-inch fell.
We are expecting
and hoping for a three-incher,
or even two-inches,
to help refill ponds,
green the grass,
give the cracked earth and trees
a drink.
I think it might be an important shift for us
to stop expecting and hoping for
a change back to the rain pattern
of pre-2000 days
and take a realistic look
at what’s happening now.
Dribs and drabs in the fall
followed by dry months
and a good spring rain
might be our reality.
So too may those occasional,
historic torrential floods,
but I think we might come to value
every 1/4-inch-rain.
Certainly,
this morning,
after a 3/4-inch-rain,
chilly temperatures (55 F)
and overcast skies,
there is relief.
Even so,
we hope
for more.
I wonder if what we need to think about
is what steps to take
to support life on the prairie
without as much rain.

Full Rain Barrel this Morning

Comes a gentle rain.
I move the Boston fern from the front porch
out into the rain
and, as the wind is not blowing the rain much,
I take a moment to sit on the porch
and listen to the dripping,
the soft soothe of rain on the tin barn
where, suddenly,
the Guineas are raising a ruckus.
Donning boots and jacket,
I move myself
out to the barn
to check on rabbits and hen and Guineas.
They’re sharing space now
and doing all the exploring
and testing,
making the thumping, pecking, growling, cackling
statements to each other
that creatures do when they first meet
and figure out how to live together.
Little Red Hen
pecked at Jolie this morning
when I opened all the gates,
but Jolie held her own,
once dashing right between Little Red Hen’s legs.

The rain on tin is loud in the barn
and Guineas are pacing on straw bales
atop the rabbit pen
when I arrive,
then fly down into the bigger pen
where rabbits can’t go.
Everyone seems fine.

I return to the porch
as the skies darken
and there is thunder,
far off to the East.
The air chills a bit
and the rain seems to be coming down harder.
I hear Little Red Hen
raising a ruckus now.
I leave them be
and as a kitten scurries from barn
to porch,
I just breathe,
let myself be
and listen
to the rain.
Until
there is a commotion
and Joe races across the yard.
I go again to the barn
but everyone’s fine.
Then I get a call from my sister
that the blue tractor needs to be moved into the round-top barn.
I move the tractor
and in the process see how much wonderful rain water
is flowing off the downspout of my house
into the flower bed.
I feel an urgency to capture it.
Why hasn’t this ever bothered me this much before?
Getting more and more soaked,
I manage an engineering feat
unlike me
but realize even this clever entrapment
is only going to catch
a limited amount.
I bring the buckets out to catch more
and vow to order a rain barrel
today.

I’m soaked to the skin
and reluctant
to come in
out of the rain.