Comfort found in the rain drops

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It’s raining this morning. The windows to my bedroom are open and I woke to the sound of it trickling from the sky in the darkness, the bathroom light on and my husband already up, downstairs, brewing coffee and getting our baby dressed for her day at daycare.

Although it took me a while to realize. That’s usually my job. I get her up and properly snuggled and dressed so he can take her down the road with him. But I blinked my eyes open to listen to the rain, and then I heard them on the baby monitor sitting on my nightstand, the clicking and swishing and chattering of our morning ritual.

“Blankie?” She said.

“Yes baby,” he said.

And I thought, “how sweet,” and that I could just lay here under these covers, under this roof, listening to the sound of the rain and their chatter as I drifted back to sleep.

But then I remembered her hair’s probably a huge mess, some standing straight up, some sticking straight out and the rest down in her eyes and she will need her ponytail, and her dad, with his big, calloused fingers, gets nervous about ponytails.

So I swung my legs over the bed and shuffled down the stairs, rubbing my eyes and sneaking up on them as they entered the hallway.

“Oh good, just in time!,” he smiled, handing me our daughter with one arm while carefully placing the tiny pink elastic hair tie in my hand. She laid her head on my shoulder and we sat together in the chair, putting on her finishing touches for the day, her shoes, her flowered jacket and, yes, her little ponytail before her dad swooped her up and down the road in the rain.

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Eleven years married and this is what our life is now, a series of balancing and handoffs and what’s for supper? Did she eat? Did she bath? Did you see her latest trick? And some days this life feels more overwhelming and out of our control than others, with a crazy schedule and bills and bad news and bad weather and bad things happening to good people and we can’t do much about so much…

But this morning we all rose slowly together under the calm quiet of the morning, a team of a little family who has each other’s hands, and hearts and ponytails under the roof that is a our messy little sanctuary, under a sky that’s raining again…

Thank God it’s raining again.

Coming Home: The hope that lives in a rain shower
Forum Communications

Rainbow over east pasture

It rained last weekend. For the first time since spring arrived, the clouds rolled in during the early morning and they hung over the land all day like a sweet, life-giving blanket, sending waves of drenching water, turned to sprinkles, turned to mist turned back to heavy rain, on and off all day.

It rained. It really rained last weekend. And it didn’t matter if there was an outdoor event planned, or a camping trip, or a parade — we all welcomed it on our skin, remembering what it felt like to be given a promise that the dust will settle.

We’ve been waiting for this moisture for months, although the drought hasn’t affected us or hit us as hard as our neighbors to the south. Our hay crop is alright this year. We have enough grass. Our livelihoods don’t fully depend on the cattle we raise. We’ll be fine.

Others are not so lucky this time around.

And I can’t help but think of how the weather controls us as I stand with my face pressed to the screen door, letting the rain speckle my cheeks, watching it drip off of the deck railing, shiver the leaves on the trees, turn the garden dirt black and open my purple petunias up for a drink.

It’s magic really. I’ve been watering those flowers for months from the sink every day with Edie and her little green plastic watering can. And they were fine, if not a little sad and hopeless sitting there stuck in the hot sun in those pots.

And then it rained like it did and they grew new leaves, petals sprouted overnight, vines reached toward the sky and they were alive again, with one big gulp.

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I felt like those flowers, sluggish and worried about lightning strikes and fires, stuck inside in the afternoons with Edie, eating popsicles and both of us refusing to put on pants.

I remember hot summers like this from my childhood, the sharp, dry grasses scratching our bare legs as the buzz of the hoppers cut through the heat.

The dog days of summer had its own smells of dusty hay bales and sprinklers waking up the lawn. It tasted like water from the hose and sweat and push-up pops on Grandma’s front porch. It felt like the prick of a cactus after a misplaced seat and mosquito bites itched clean off the skin and sweaty horsehair sticking to your legs after a bareback ride to pick chokecherries.

But when it rained, it changed our world from dust to mud, from popsicles to warm soup, from itchy legs to soaked jeans, from grasshoppers to chickadees, from sprinklers to puddles.

And maybe it’s just how I was raised, but even as a kid, even on the days I planned on swimming in the big lake or meeting friends at the pool or riding my horse in the parade in town, I can’t remember ever being disappointed by a summer shower, knowing full well, maybe even then, that in those tiny drops, hope lives.

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Listen to my song, “Raining”
From the album “Nothing’s Forever”

Buy it on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby or on jessieveedermusic.com

Memories in October Rain

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Today it’s snowing. Big white, silent flakes falling from the sky and accumulating on the earth and tree branches, coating the grass, which has turned green again in late fall due to all the rain we’ve had.

The last of my garden is sitting in a basket safe from the weather in the garage, tomatoes in various sizes and states of readiness, waiting for me to turn them into salsa, someday soon hopefully.

Our plans for finishing up the rest of the outdoor projects–hauling hay, staining the house,  mowing the lawn one last time–have come to a pause as we wait for it to melt off again.

Sunday it was nearly 80 degrees.

Saturday was in the 30s.

‘Tis the season of extremes in North Dakota.

And ’tis the season of nostalgia for me.

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Coming Home: October rain brings back childhood memories
by Jessie Veeder
10-9-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It rained all day yesterday. Big sheets of water fell from the sky, straight down and then sideways, giant drops making puddles in places puddles rarely exist in the dry autumn months around here.

I’ve always been fascinated with the rain around here, and yesterday, as I stood with Edie pressing our noses to the glass doors on this house, it occurred to me that fascination still holds.

Because water transforms this place. It’s one of the only kinds of real magic I know exists, besides how the heck the hornets keep getting into the house.

In the unpredictable weather we live in up here, I find it comforting to know that we can always count on a season change. But I’ve never seen one like this.

It’s been so wet this fall that overnight big white mushrooms sprouted up like oversized golf balls scattering our lawn, a lawn that had to wait until October to fully turn green.

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We rarely get soaking rain like this so late in the year. This morning I looked out the window and noticed that the trees looked like they were shivering, their leaves shaking on the branches as they work to hold on tight to this season.

Tomorrow it might snow.

These weather shifts always turn me a bit nostalgic.

I drive through my parents’ yard, my tires splashing through the puddles that have been forming in the same places since I was a kid and I remember the time when my little sister—she was about 5 or 6—took her sled out to where the warm sun had melted the snow in the driveway. A big body of water had formed and to her it looked like a perfect place to try to float. So she plopped her sled down on the edge and took a seat.

I can still see her brown curls escaping from her ponytail and her look of surprise and disappointment when her sled-boat sank, freezing cold water flooding over the shallow edges of the plastic sled, soaking her purple snowpants.

Funny how something as simple as a puddle can bring back big memories. I guess that’s what happens when you find yourself all grown up in the place that grew you.

I opened the windows of this house this morning and the smell of damp leaves and the brisk morning air turned me back into a 12-year-old girl on the back of my red mare riding alongside my little sister on her white pony, Jerry.

We’re on our way to the reservation to round up cattle and bring them home to wean. Our noses are cold and we can see our breath, but the sun is shining, the dew making the yellow leaves sparkly and golden.

And we’re paying no attention really. We’re just kids, spitting plum pits at one another and screeching when that pony, like he always did, decided he had enough for the day, gave up and laid down on the trail in an attempt to get rid of that curly-haired cowgirl on his back.

Dozens of autumns have passed since, creating countless memories I could recall, but the scent of the season and the change of the leaves always turn me into that little girl in a red barn jacket, as if that’s the only person I’m supposed to be in this season.

And I can’t help but wonder, as I open up the door so Edie can feel the cool air, what this season might mean to her when she’s a grown woman. I wonder what she’ll remember with the crunch of the leaves beneath her boots and what stories will fall from the sky and gather like big puddles of October rain.

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Sunday Column: On weather and roots

Badlands Sunset

The sky out here is volatile. Perfectly pleasant one minute, and violent the next, those of us who grew up here in the north country have a sort of “expect the unexpected” instinct born in us when it comes to the changing weather.

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But it doesn’t mean we don’t get caught off guard. Just because we know that at any moment the clouds could build, one on another on another, and send the air swirling above our heads bending branches or sending hailstones flying, doesn’t mean we’re always ready for it.
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But that’s the thing about this sky. As soon as you come to trust that another calm 80 degree day will pile up on another 80 degree calm day,

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you head to the lake with your dad’s pontoon and friends from out of state to show them another side of the prairie, and just like that you’re caught out in the middle of the big water trying to out-boat a wall of hail and rain while a tornado warning buzzes on your smart phone and your little sister’s heart proceeds to lodge directly in her throat.

And suddenly I remember why I am a prairie person and not a boat person.

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Because if I were on a horse in that storm, I’d give him his head, close my eyes and he’d run us both home.

On a boat? Well… on a boat on the big lake with friends working to get to know this foreign place we call North Dakota  I felt so completely out of my element.

I wanted to show them the world that I knew and what we do out here when it’s hot. How we find ourselves a beach and set up shop. How we dig in the sand or the mud, pick rocks and sip drinks and thank God for the lake in the heat of the day.

And then the sky turned black and chased us down and everything I knew about what we do on a hot day blew away in the waves with the wind…

But when it was all said and done and we were back safely to shore, wind swept and nervously laughing, I think maybe I caught a glimpse of what it might be feel like to be, like the new friends who braved the adventure with us, on unfamiliar ground…

Coming Home: Wishing for solid ground in an unfamiliar place
by Jessie Veeder
8-2-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The dark blue clouds sparked with lightning on the horizon in front of us, and the deep rumble of the thunder seemed to shoot up from the ground below our horses’ feet to settle and roar smack in the middle of my 10-year-old heart.

It was one of those calm and sticky summer evenings, the perfect combination of humidity, heat and timing just right for brewing a storm out of thin air. And so there we were out chasing cattle, my little sister on her white pony, my dad and me, miles from the safety of the barnyard, staring up at the sky growing darker by the second.

It was my first lesson in remaining calm in an uncontrollable situation that escalated quickly, the types of situations that, out here, are generally always caused by the sky or an animal.

Because there’s nothing nature does better than teach us lessons about our own human vulnerability.

Against an angry thousand-pound bull or a cloud full of hail stones, we are nothing but skin and bones, muscle and a built-in instinct to survive that we humans don’t exercise very often.

But out here, the animals do.

“These horses know how to get home,” Dad said to us, his silhouette darkening against a flashing horizon. “I know you can’t see the ground, but they can feel it. Just let their heads go and they will get you home.”

And there was our lesson in trust—in our dad, in our animal and in the inborn instinct that is survival.

Last night, the sky was brewing up storms across the state. The air was thick outside our house and the weatherman on TV predicted the unpredictable. There will be wind. There will be rain. There will be storms tonight.

The phones and Internet conversations began buzzing in a Boomtown filled with people new to the prairie. Where do we go? What do we do? When will it hit?

I’m a woman born and grown on the sweeping open prairies under a sky that will softly kiss the hilltops with light one minute, only to turn around to swallow up the land in a fury of wind and rain the next. I know this. I’ve seen its volatility and in some ways I’ve blamed its constant impulsiveness on my own. How could the drama of such sweetness and rage not get under my skin?

But these days, home on these familiar plains, I’m a minority. For the thousands of new residents who have come north from the rocky soil of a mountain range, the sandy beaches of the coast, or the dry heat of the desert, the roll of the thunder coming up from the horizon to rest in your gut is not a familiar feeling. And it can be terrifying to know that under this big open sky in the middle of America, anything can happen.

Even those of us whose roots are long planted here are still at risk of being taken off guard.

And so I’m thinking of my first lesson in the danger of our sky today, because last weekend, while taking new friends out on the boat on the big lake in the heat of the day I looked up at that horizon and watched white clouds turn to black, lightning flash, heard the thunder crack and felt the waves grow bigger underneath us as my husband put the throttle down to escape the white wall of hailstones and rain that were chasing us toward the shore on the other side of the lake.

I turned to my friend, a former Utah resident who has spent the past nine months discovering and learning about her new home on the prairie. I wanted to reassure her, but as I looked up at the darkening sky I felt my usual confidence in my home dissipate and my vulnerability swell on that water.

I wished desperately for solid ground and a trusted horse that would know his footing and bring us all home.

And for the first time, I think I began to understand what it might feel like to dig new roots in this fickle and mysterious place.

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Look what the rain did…

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I was away most of last week and on into this one, celebrating the release of my new album “Northern Lights” and playing a few concerts around the state.

I have a million things to say about the sold out shows, the little girls who got up on stage to dance with me, the generous crowd and the awesome musicians who backed me, but I have to get out the door to catch another gig.

So I’ll just do what I did when I got home last night before the sun set and let you take in what the rain created while I was out traipsing around.

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I just couldn’t resist a quick walk before bed.

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Can’t you just smell the green grass growing?

I think this is what heaven is like…

Like the rain after a hot day…and a warm day after the rain.

To celebrate my favorite kind of weather, here’s a video of me singing “Raining” at my CD release concert in Fargo on Sunday.

Peace, love and growing things,

Jessie

Sunday Column: Looking for mercy from the prairie sky

On Friday it rained relentlessly. I woke up in the dark at 6 AM to the sound of drops pounding on my windows. I drove out of this place kicking up mud under that weeping sky and headed out toward the big town and back again.

It never let up.

And then the wind came and it blew that rain sideways and covered my head while my boots sunk in to the slippery on my way to hunker down under the safety of my roof.

The day before the sun shone bright and clear and the season looked and felt like the photographs you see on all of the Western calendars for October.

24 hours later the scene was drenched.

We expect this. Rain in October. Snow in October. Heat in October. Fire in October.

Anything can happen under this prairie sky. And that’s the beauty and the tragedy of it all.

Coming Home: Looking for mercy from the prairie sky
by Jessie Veeder
10/13/13
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

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When it pours…

We got drenched here yesterday. The morning brought us thunder against the glow of a sunrise trying to peek through the clouds and, well, it just escalated from there.

Around here we don’t get too many downpours like this. Typically we get our moisture in the spring and then watch the sky for a chance of showers to help soften the hard clay throughout the summer, so this day of gully-washing rain was a welcomed site for us.

And when I say gully-washing, I mean it. The coulees were flowing with raging river rapids, the corrals below the house turned into swimming pools, a new ravine was cut along the edge of my driveway and, well, I got myself a free pug wash. It’s days like these that make me feel like I’m in a different world altogether. The ten-year-old in me itches to run around in it, to let the rainwater soak in my hair and squish between the mud in my toes. But the logical grown-up in me decides it’s best not to get pneumonia, even though I’m fully convinced the pneumonia scare was a ploy by  mothers and grandmothers everywhere in an effort to avoid soggy kids running into the house with a pile full of muddy laundry waiting to be stripped from their pruny bodies. But whether it was the threat of a sniffle or the scarier threat of more laundry that willed me to stay inside until the monsoon-like rains subsided, it doesn’t really matter. I was out in it at the first sign of let-up.
Because I love the way rain makes my world look. I love how it changes things, how it drenches the wildflowers causing their petals to recoil.

I love the sparkle of the rain drops waiting to be evaporated back into the sky on the soft surface of the leaves.

I want to lick the drips from the un-ripened berries.

I like to visit the horses, to see how they fared as they stood still against the opened sky, their butts turned against the wind, soaking the heavens into their skin. It always seems a storm makes them ravenous, starving for the lush green grass that seems to turn neon at the first drop of moisture.

 But after the storm they won’t have me poking my nose in their business. They are not about to come in.
 They braved the storm, now they’re going to feast.

 I always walk to a hilltop then. I scrape and scramble my way up the face of the clay buttes, my boots, suffering from a severe case of mud-pack, weighing an extra 10-20 pounds. I scour the bushes for flowers, check out the sky for more rain, listen for the birds coming back to life and breathe in the fresh, new air.

Funny how a good rain can cleanse us, even when we watch it from the other side of the windows or come to know it after the calm has set in.

I love this land.

I love what exists here.

The changing and unexpected beauty cannot be recreated, not matter the repetition of the seasons.

I find I’m manic about being a witness to its changes, running out to be a part of it…

to be a part of the down pour…

Because when it rains I feel there’s something up there responsible for this…

When it rains, when it pours…I believe.

October Rain

There’s nothing more spectacular than a season change. And around here, we all have the chance to get up close and personal with the shifting of breeze, the cool down or warm up and the new colors the big guy decided to paint with. So when I feel the shift, when I hear the leaves start to crackle or take notice of something new poking through the ground in the spring, I pay attention. I look around. Because I hate to miss a day of it, really. It happens so fast. One morning you will be walking through oak groves of plush grass, under a canopy of leaves sparkling with life and green, and the next those leaves have all changed clothing and some have already decided to turn in early for the year.

It’s this time of year, the autumn, that I hate to be away from the ranch. I hate to miss the 50 and 60 and degree weather, perfect for rounding up cattle and maybe, if it’s the morning, digging out my neckerchief.

I hate to miss how the horses seem to lay a little longer in the sunshine, breathe out breath we can see into the crisp early air and work on growing their wooly, winter coats. I hate to miss the days the leaves on the oak trees start turning from green to yellow to orange one by one or the crunch of the leaves under my feet and the smell of the damp air reminding me of a childhood spent in these very same places, in this very same season-change ritual.

Oh yes, I’d hate to drive away from this toward warmer sun in the south or shut myself in between safe and heated walls and miss all of the miraculous and well planned preparation going on around me. Because I fear that if I didn’t pay attention to the shifts occurring on the top of the buttes, under prairie grasses and  animal skin, I wouldn’t understand what was happening to me….

…why my skin has faded in color and is begging me to put on long, wooly sleeves, why I want to warm up soup and sink in next to husband on our big chair and talk about plans and life and how I adore him. Without taking notice of the cool breeze, settling plants, and a sun that sinks below the horizon at an earlier hour each evening, I may not understand why my eyes feel heavy, my body weary and my bed calls my name at an hour when I may have still been on a back of a horse miles out in a pasture just months before in a season we called summer.


I might not understand why I don’t allow myself to go down easy, why I hustle around the house at 8 pm putting the finishing touches on projects and work, strumming my guitar and singing songs into the darkening sky, making sure all living creatures in the household know that I have things to do yet, I’m still here, regardless of the light. I would find myself crazy and alone in a world that was trying to get some sleep already if I didn’t witness the sky putting up the exact same fight during this time of year…

See, she’s not quite ready either–not ready to turn in her party dress. Because this time of year, more than ever, in the evening hour, right before dark I catch her showing off her biggest, most fluffy clouds with splashes of fuchsia and deep orange costumes as together they threaten a heavy fall shower with big, splashing raindrops when all the world thought the next thing to come was the dark and the snow.

I see her, I know what she’s doing, I understand the need to make a scene like this and I hear her laugh as she watches the crazy woman with the camera gaze at her face and dream about climbing those very clouds and laying down there for the winter, held softly in the warm fluff of the sky, eyes closed tight, knees to chest like a child, sleeping soundly through the winter until she lets me down with the rain in the spring.

But it can’t be so. I must stay here on the crust of the earth and watch her performance as she turns down the lights and paints the world soft pink, how she keeps the rain in the sky for a few moments, under small and un-daunting slivers of fluff evoking a trust and wonder in the creatures below basking in the uncommon warmth of a late fall evening.

Yes, I must wait here and watch as the sky pushes her sun further down the horizon line, lighting up the farmstead one last moment before she lets loose those big drops of rain, slowly at first, onto the crazy woman’s head.

Because the sky thought the woman needed one last reminder of a warmer world.

And she was right, the sky, she was. The crazy woman who could see the barnyard, a small dark dot on that very horizon, quite enjoyed the way the drops stuck in her fuzzy hair…

the way her feet helped float her body down the butte toward the light glowing from the kitchen of the farm house….


she laughed at the sound of her big brown dog’s paws hitting the dirt, his mouth blowing out air, his tongue hanging and bouncing along his clumsy body as he found his rhythm alongside a woman who was running now…

Running in the autumn rain, under a sky who is wrapping up her show, a season, with a reminder of the scent and feel and colors and sound of summer…

One last rain.

In autumn.

So I slowed my pace because a little rain never hurt anyone…

and me and the sky, we were not going down easy.

Welcome short, spectacular season!

I would like to interrupt the drizzling skies, raging rivers, mud puddles and frizzy hair to wish everyone a happy first day of summer.

I’ve been waiting for this for a while and went out last night, despite a threatening sky, to see how things are growing–

Martha, how they’re growing!

The cat came with.

I don’t know why he comes with.

Neither does he.

He was pretty pissed when the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain on the grass that reached well over his head, so he disappeared somewhere…

that cat is weird…

Anyway,  I didn’t care about the rain (or the cat really) I just kept trucking up on to the top of a hill that, just months ago, required a good set of snowshoes and a hearty breakfast to reach.

Let’s reminisce for a moment:

December

June

December

June

December

June

December

June

December

June

What a difference a few months makes in this country!

I am always amazed how summer seems so far away during the depths of February when your cheeks are frozen, the FedEx man is stuck in your driveway and you find yourself wearing two parkas at once, only to wake up one morning to find grass up to your knees and every color of wildflower reaching for the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this summer is shaping up to be as challenging and unpredictable as its cousin winter–with unprecedented precipitation and unexpected rising rivers. So today I celebrate, and then send my thoughts and prayers to those battling flood waters, farmers who can’t get in their fields and families displaced.


Because Mother Nature, true to her form this first day of summer continues to be unpredictable, miraculous, stunning, gentle, quiet, subtle, colorful, splendid, nurturing and unforgiving all at once. 

Here’s hoping that whether the rain soaks your skin, the sun hits your shoulders or the gentle breeze tousles your hair you can find a way to take a moment and give thanks for a season so short and so spectacular today.

A promise of summer

It’s been raining at the ranch for the last few days.

Raining, and thundering, and pouring and flooding and rushing the creekbeds.

And smelling so sweet.

So although I’m an outspoken fan of the sun, I know this is necessary. I know this is what spring does.

So I say bring it on. Let the heavens pour down and wash that winter away. Wash it clean and squeaky. We’ve been frozen and thirsty and our hair needs washing…

the worms need air…

the lilacs need watering…

the horses need waking up.

Rain sky. Cry it out. Turn the brown neon and make the flowers hunch over under the weight of your necessary presence.

I don’t mind. Really. I will stand in it all day.

I’ll splash in your puddles, let it soak in my skin, slide down the clay buttes, jump over the rushing streams. Because I forgot what this feels like, being soaked to the core and warm in spite of it.

I forgot what it looks like when the lighting breaks apart the sky. 

I forgot how the thunder shakes the foundation of this little house, how it startles me from sleep and fills my heart with a rush of loneliness, a reminder that the night carries on while I’m sleeping.

I forgot how clean it smells, how green the grass can be, how many colors are in a rainbow.

So go on. Rain.

Rain all you want.

Rain forever on this hard ground and turn this pink road red..

This brown ground green

Let your drops encourage the fragile stuff, the quiet beauty that has been sleeping for so long to wake up and show her face to the sky.

I’ll be there waiting to gasp over it, to gush and smile and stick my nose in the sweet scents and return home to track your mud into my house where the soup is on.
Rain. Rain. Rain. You tap at my windows…
and promise me summer.

When spontaneity strikes, at least put on pants…

So it rained like hell last night at the ranch. After a sweltering hot and humid day, the deep, dark clouds began to roll in over the horizon in the evening and we all scrambled to fulfill our outdoor plans for the night before closing the doors and pressing our foreheads to the glass to see what the storm had in store for us.

And what it had in store, it turned out, was like nothing I have seen in August around here. In fact, I failed to believe the blue clouds and flashes of threatening lightning until I found myself out in the middle of the pink road, turning the power walk with my mother (who I convinced not to worry, it’s not going to rain) into a power run as the wind pushed the rain closer and closer to our backs. Even when my dad came cruising over the hill with the 4-wheeler to rescue his maiden in distress, I refused his offer for a ride home and continued my trek to outrun the storm.

I guess I was finally convinced when I was a quarter mile from our little house and I was soaked, literally, to the bone. My socks were sloshing in my shoes, my clothes were sticking to my skin and the mascara I applied for a day of work in town was running down my cheeks.

I opened my arms to the sky, turned my head up and stuck my tongue out to taste it. Alright, alright, it’s raining, it’s pouring, in August!

And it was glorious.

So I walked a little slower to let it soak in my skin and wash out the stink and sweat and stress of the day and it wasn’t until I turned the last corner into the yard that concerned Prince Charming came up the road only to find his lovely wife looking like a mouse who had been swimming in a stock tank. He was coming to my rescue, but just a little late (in Scofield tradition)

But I was just fine–just fine indeed.

However, now that I am thinking of it, maybe I was a little too fine. A little too thrilled about the turn of events in the weather.

A little insane, perhaps.

I have heard stories and songs about this type of behavior happening to people after a drought–a long hot summer. They pray for rain, for a drop from the sky to relieve them of the dust and despair. So when God is finished with his long, luxurious bath, the heavens finally open up and He, always a conservationist, throws His water out to the most deserving of sinners. And they all rejoice with dances, and parties, whoops and hollars up into the sky.

They go crazy.

Just like me last night.

It could have been the kinetic energy swirling around in the air from the lighting show, making my hair stand on end, or the fact I had spent my first full day of work in town, or it could have just been the utter amazement we had at the amount of water gushing from the sky and down our roads, in our coulees and road ditches and collecting in rivers and deep puddles in the once dry, dusty and crusty areas of the place. Or maybe there was no explanation at all…

But something in me woke up.  After the heavy rain had passed, (or so we thought) already dressed for bed and ready to settle in for the night, husband called to me from the front porch to “get my shoes on and come out here.” So I slipped on my flip-flops, stood out on the front porch with Prince Charming and listened as the water rushed and gushed in small rivers through every crevice of our surroundings.

We took a couple steps off the porch together, trying, at first, to avoid the gigantic puddle in our front yard and to keep out of the deep mud. We followed the sound of the rushing rainwater and whooped in amazement at every newly formed stream and waterfall falling off of the cliffs and toward the barnyard. We followed the stream down to the horse corral where we discovered a river had formed, racing its way to the nearby creek bed.

Well, I had to see how deep it was, so I tentatively stuck one foot in. The other quickly followed and pretty soon husband and I were splashing and frolicking nearly knee deep in a river that had spontaneously appeared before us.

It was refreshing and freeing and magical and romantic and adventurous….

I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to husband and looked him square in the eyes.

“Let’s go slide down the gumbo hill.”

“Really?”

“Yes, we have to! It’s right there.”

“ummmm.”

The rainwater had completely washed away any inhibitions and returned me to my youthful, innocent and completely naive state.

I bent my knees and made fists, bouncing up and down with sheer delight.

“I really, really, really want to!”

Husband paused for a second, as if to make sure I was still the girl he married, turned around and made a break for the nearest butte, which was sticking out like a big, daunting, beautiful wart on the landscape outside the fence.

I followed happily, jumping, over the rocks, slipping on the slick mud, crawling on my hands and knees, clawing at the soaked earth and throwing off my shoes and jacket.

See, this is an activity that we used to partake in as kids. After a big storm we would venture out to the nearest gumbo hill and take turns sliding down on our butts, making mud pies and slinging the precious, slimy concoction at one another.

And quickly, for those of you who haven’t experienced what we call “gumbo” I’ll give you an idea of what we are dealing with here. This form of gray dirt, also known as clay, covers the buttes around this area. In the hot summer months, the clay forms hard crusts on the hills. The dirt isn’t very accommodating to much vegetation, so the tops of most hills look like a bald man’s head, but the vegetation it does support is rough and prickly and dry and hearty.

But when it rains, the clay buttes turn to a sloppy, slippery, sticky heaven. Anyone who ventures out into the landscape during or after a rainstorm will find themselves with half of the terrain stuck to the bottom of their boots. And the only way to get anywhere in that situation is to slide it out…

Which is exactly what we did.

In the dark after the storm, in my short shorts and pajama top, I found myself having scrambled to the top of the nearest, tallest butte, standing hand and hand with my husband in what was now pouring rain, looking down on what I was sure to be pure joy– just as I remembered it as a child.

It turns out what I did not remember was all of the jagged rocks that make their homes on the surface of the butte, protecting the smooth clay underneath. The cactuses also seemed to slip my mind, as did the sharp grasses waiting for me at the bottom.

See the thing about making the same spontaneous, reckless and adventurous decisions as an adult as you did in your youth is that, as a child, you no doubt had some voice of reason back at the house telling you about said dangers, how you might be injured or possibly die from the decision and telling you to play on the smaller hill and wear pants, at least.

But as an adult, your memory serves your agenda and you are bigger…so you choose the bigger hill….and you don’t wear pants.

So down husband went, off the cliff and into the dark, surfing on his man sandals, (or what I refer to as man-dals) arms out to balance his weight, catching air, spinning around, gaining speed rapidly and landing a triple axel in a puddle at the bottom.

I clutched my hands to my chest at the top, waiting to hear a sign of life, a cry, a scream, a wail of agony…anything?

“Woooo Hooooooo! Hahahahahaha!”

The thrilling sound bounced off of each hill and made its way up to me through the dark sheets of rain.

All is well. Pure joy. It must have been as fun as I recalled.

I took my first step toward adventure.

My foot slid down. Unsteady, it broke away from the other leg, which was planted firmly on the ground above.

I was in the splits (and I haven’t stretched for this) but only for a moment. My planted leg un-planted and sent me swirling sideways toward the ravine that joined our butte together with his neighbor.

Oh. Shit.

I wanted to start out in control. I wanted to take husband’s already plowed trail.

I mustered the strength to correct my path and squatted down on my feet, taking a cue form husband’s demonstration. You know, like surfing or wakeboarding or snow boarding…all the things I suck at.

Why would this be any different?

It wasn’t.

I slid for .5 seconds this way and quickly fall to my butt, where my shorty-shorts, along with my granny panties, promptly make their way up my crack as I gain speed, now on my bare ass, down an uncharted track of grass and rocks and cactus, cutting out a nice, wide swath with my cheeks.

My squeals of delight quickly turned to screams of agony and I put my arms out to try to slow myself as I hit the patch of vegetation along the bottom of the butte at speeds of what I am guessing to be at least 25 mph.  Now my hands are ripping through the tall grass and cactus as the skin of my precious, white tush is being torn to shreds by the crust of God’s green earth.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I slid to a stop at Prince Charming’s feet.

Silence.

I looked up from the bloody, mangled, muddy heap that was my body. Legs sprawled, arms tangled–I took a moment.

Am I dead?

My throbbing ass cheeks indicated probably no.

And so did the hysterical laughter coming from deep within my belly and out my mouth and up to the face of the beautiful swamp man leaning over me.

He reached out his shredded, muddy hand and hoisted his pajama clad, soggy, bloody and whimpering wife to her feet. Wounded, winded, shocked and completely blissed out, I told him I didn’t’ remember the adventure hurting that much when I was 10.

And then I remembered the pants.

The evidence

The evidence this morning. Notice the two trails cut at the top of the left butte?

Yes, it rained like hell last night and I wish you were here to see the grass glisten, the trees drip, the ravines that were cut through our roads…and to grab my ointment. Because the girl who went to bed as a rain soaked ten year old woke up this morning as an adult. And she isn’t moving too fast today.

Ooof, and there aren’t enough band-aids in the world….