The Essence of Rain

Precious Water

Precious Water

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

-Langston Hughes

“Drops dripped.” I first heard this wonderful lyrical alliteration a couple of years ago while listening to a report on NPR describing the release of a new translation of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, “War and Peace”. The editors of this new release used this phrase as an example of their more accurate and detailed translation of Tolstoy’s great novel. “Drops dripped…drops dripped”. How evocative, how musical it sounded!

I found this phrase rolling around in my head again last night as I listened to the night song of those “silver liquid drops” quietly drumming on the tin roof with a soft, comforting murmur. Lying in my warm bed with thick covers pulled tight around me, I listened dreamily to this evening lullaby and envisioned drops dripping off verdant summer foliage, slowly cascading down craggy rock faces and soaking into the soft, warm ground. I tried to picture the arc of a single raindrop as it fell from the sky seeking a reunion with the soil from whence it began. This single drop, in a beautiful and agonizingly slow process, will ever so gradually wend its way deep underground, collecting in dark hidden pools where it will lie in wait for us to pull it back up to the surface to irrigate our apple trees or to water a thirsty garden. Once used, this lone drop, in an eternal cycle of evaporation, transpiration and rainfall, will once again rise to the clouds, to hopefully return another day as cool rain, the lifeblood of our blue planet.

I have always been keenly attuned to the whims and patterns of weather, a fascination that goes back to childhood. I recall my parent’s stern warning during violent thunderstorms to sit quietly and stay away from the windows. I could not. The presence of such a compelling and forbidden force just outside the window was far too much a lure for me to resist. I marveled while watching slashing streaks of hot lightning and observing the dark, ominous storm clouds as they raged and tumbled overhead. Even today, hearing the distant rumble of an approaching storm quickens my pulse and draws my eyes to the horizon as I wait in excited, nervous anticipation for the uproar to begin.

As a farmer and orchardist rain is a critically important element not only for my success on the farm but for the long-term health and survival of my crops and orchards. I can no longer be content to just observe its beauty and simplicity and count on its being there when I need it. The brutal reality is that life-sustaining rain will not always be there when needed most. Witness the ongoing loss and destruction experienced by those suffering from the devastating effects of extreme drought in the western and southwestern regions of the country. We all must understand that rainfall is a simple yet deeply profound gift. We must be grateful and appreciative for every drop that falls, for it represents the gift of life, purely and simply.

For farmers, rainfall is the essence of life and survival. It can make or break you, all within a span of a few months. Too little precipitation and you watch crops wither and yields disappear. Too much rain and you stand by, helpless and frustrated, as fields turn to slush and your carefully tended crops drown and rot in the deluge. It is a curious paradox that such a beautiful and necessary offering can, in turn, be such a malevolent force. Despite this, we live because it rains. A quote by the scholar and educator St. Basil captures the importance of this quite well: “Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.”

So far, we have been extremely fortunate this early summer season, for rainfall has been adequate and timely, showering us and the land with nourishing precipitation when needed most. The melted snows and cold rains of the past winter, now securely ensconced in their underground lairs, will be our most precious commodity as we progress into the planting and growing season. Will there be enough groundwater to meet our needs through another long, hot summer? Will life-sustaining rainfall be there when we are most in need? Hopefully so, but we live by the whims and vagaries of Nature and, as such, are never granted the assurance that it will always be thus.

I will therefore be thankful for the gentle, warm rain that sang its lullaby to me last night. Its song offered comfort and assurance that all will be well on the farm for at least another day. But more is needed; it will always be needed. So, I will continue to watch the horizon for those building storm clouds, waiting in continued anticipation for the next live-giving rainfall to shower its beneficent gifts upon a thirsty land.




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