“And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
- Edward Thomas, Sowing
The rain is coming. Not yet, but soon. The bird feeders are dry and filled to their brims yesterday, already half full. Before the rain, I have to give everybody a drink of water (there’s no such thing as a gentle “soak”) so the ground softens enough to open and drink when the rains finally arrive. If I don’t gently hand-water a bit first, the first rain just makes the surface of the dry dust damp. The first water to fall from the sky rolls off my dry yard like a duck’s back, right down the storm drains.
So I go outside to water before it rains. The birds resentfully quit the bird feeders at my approach. Some of them are too fat to stand on the dainty feeders and, like the plump morning doves (aka, hobo chicken) who are content to forage on the ground below the feeders. The wren pictured here is actually too obese to feed from the hanging feeders . The morning doves also waddle around, sorting through the sunflower hulls for any dropped seeds.
In early spring rains, the seeds who have escaped the birds begin to sprout. I’ve sometimes managed to transplant the fragile sprouts into a sunnier spots where they survive and prosper. I’ve never had much luck buying sunflower seeds and attempting to cultivate real live sunflowers. Which is a shame, because I love sunflowers. Big, gaudy, and vulgar like their humble beginnings as subsistence food for poor farmers. Now the darlings of the Farmers’ Markets, the icon of the Art Nouveau which was beginning to fade and be eclipsed by Art Deco about 100 years ago. I insist that I liked sunflowers when I was poor, before they became trendy and sustainable and green and junk.
Some day, I will stumble my way into the perfect combination of sun, soil and rare rain to cultivate wildly successful sunflowers. My timing is also probably off, a sad metaphor for my gardening skills in general. I am the Almost Gardener, who may insist on not remembering all the right botanical names, but I garden for love and for physical and mental therapy, and probably enjoy it all the more because it relives me of my obsessive need to name what I see.
But someday, I will grow sunflowers deliberately. Meanwhile, my yard is overrun and run amok with mint: the perfect barometer of my measure of care in the yard. I practice gardening like a clinical drug trial doing the LD50 phase. This means the dose at which 50% of the patients die. I probably am doing better than 50-50 these days, but it was not always so.
One day, I will all arrive at the exact right time and deliver the exact right dose of all the ingredients needed to grow monster sunflowers. But first, let’s have some rain, dammit!