The rain has finally begin to fall in California. A gray flannel blanket has cloaked the sky and water is falling from the heavens again. It's about time.
As I walk out to follow the kids around in the lighter showers, my go feet squish-squash-squish-squash through the muddy grass when I cross the seasonal creek that bisects our property. The children like to wear their mud boots and walk up and down the ephemeral stream pretending their fishing. One can hardly call it a "real" creek since water only moves through the shallow swale after the of heaviest rains. There is no bed or bank, only a topographic break where the slopes from east and west meet. If you came to my house in the summer running water would never come to mind.
When it starts to rain I always have a mix of emotions.
First I feel excitement.
The water will make the dormant seeds swell and it activates enzymes to start the germination process. Tiny white sprouts emerge and form roots in search of damp soil. A sliver of green pokes it's head from the seed coat searching for light. This will be a blade or a new leaf reaching for the sun. The growth process begins. Green grass means happy horses.
Then there is another part of me that worries when the rains come.
I have never been able to shake this oppressive feeling since I worked a stable manager when I was in my late 20's. For two years, I managed a barn of 21 horses perched on top of a hill in the mountains in Saratoga, California. My apartment was over the horses stalls and the storms would bash against the A-frame roof, heralding Armageddon. I could hear the horses walking in circles below on the wooden floors of their cells...
From afar, the barn looked like a little Swiss chalet with multicolored horse heads sticking out from all the windows. But it always felt precarious. There was an active hill slide on the property and when the rains began it was only a question of how long until the earth began slipping. Then there was the worrying about things getting wet. The hay and the shavings under their massive tarps always loomed behind me. If a tarp blew loose it meant wet feed and wet bedding. Two winters of this was enough to leave me with shadows of these feelings every time a storm hits us now. Even though it is now almost 10 years later and there is nothing in jeopardy of being ruined, these thoughts still linger. It's like these memories are mud stains that will never wash out of my mind.
Water is a time for patience.
As I slosh across the saturated earth in route to feeding the horses during the storms, I feel the heavy raindrops pelting my head through my hood. There will be no turn out in the fields or riding in the arena for a while. All things horse go quiet. After three or four consecutive days of rain, the horses hunker down in their stalls. Occasionally, I see them peeking their heads out their doors while they watch the rain fall. Gemma and Sharpie stand motionless counting each raindrop as it hits the puddles in their paddocks. As the water collects on their long and wispy forelocks, it forms a miniature streamlet which eventually drip-drop-drips on to their long broad faces. Silent horse thoughts float up between their soft velvety ears. They don't really seem to mind the rain.
Water is elemental and I observe our very nature.
Puddles are where life begins anew every year. The puddles that form along our "creek" are host to western toads when they feel amorous in March. The small pond I constructed next to the creek is where Pacific chorus frogs sing their symphony every evening once the rains fill the basin. The men repeatedly call loudly to the ladies, "Hey girls! We're here...Yo babe, check me out...Look at me, I have a big...um...throat." Small bands of Mallard ducks will drift down the slow current then waddle around the water's edge and muddle for insects. And the noisy little killdeers scurry around the saturated ground pecking for insects just below the surface. It's a veritable orchestra for my ears and eyes of which I never tire.
Here's a few moments from the frogs. They're skittish and get quiet as soon as they suspect me nearby. I love to hear them singing though. Here you go "Frogs in Your Formula." You should be liking this one.
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