Spring, and warmth, and the sun shone for days with bewitching clarity. Trees offered tender leaves like babies’ palms. Flowers unfurled their love to bumblebees. And clouds of pollen covered all and every thing, infinite infinitesimal golden grains like so many sins choking the earth’s promise. Now the rain that fell last month as desperate cold has come again in peace to washed away the amber stain, and the wet green resonates in the crackling air. The spring transforms the rains, and the rain transforms the season.
For an icy rain that clings sluggish to twigs, railings, fences, windshields, the undersides of cheap patio furniture. Chilled to dribbling stalactites, unwilling to commit to a freeze but unable to run away. Winter, who not so long ago was fierce, full of energy, even playful — was it only last month? — has become a petulant child up past bedtime and too tired to sleep, throwing one after another diminishing tantrum. Flinging sleet into resentful faces. Mashing shoots of grass into resentful puddles. Frosting over flower petals like candy on a cake, then wandering off as they melt, and wilt. Spattering crystals that glimmer in the gray light, crying out from the mud, demanding attention. The pines refuse this time to participate: keep their needles uniced, and politely turn away. His parents watch embarrassed from the window, themselves too weary for discipline and knowing it to be futile.
Go to sleep, kid! But there is no helping it. He will just have to wear himself out.
For the fire and the ice. All night it rained through biting air, and the bitten world held fast the droplets. The streets turned to streams and the yards to bogs, but rails and windshields crusted, and the twigs of trees made ghostly fingers shimmering in the streetlight. Sometime after dawn by the sodden roadside the burden of frozen rain dragged a power line into a too-deep catenary arc through ice-tombed needles of a bent-weary pine. The heat of its challenged will sparked and caught the tree, but the insistent rain will not let it burn free. It melts, burns, smolders and freezes; melts, burns, smolders and freezes. Here a flashing amber like the hazard of a half-wrecked car, there a quick-roaring billow of gold, and always the cloud of smoke rising to the clouds of rain, gray dissolving into soft gray. Fire and ice struggle while the sky drips obstinately on, entangled like wrestlers and not, from the comfortable sidelines, elementally separable.
The rain falls, and falls, and falls some more. The sky showers invective like a prophet of Israel. The storm lightens and I think it will end, but it has only paused for breath before resuming its tirade. Last night an inch sat in the plastic bin I’d neglected on the porch; this morning an index finger’s depth, three joints, three inches, give or take. By afternoon the bin was full, and still the rain falls: five inches? Six? A rain gauge offers needless precision, a mindless answer to mindless curiosity: did his listeners count Jeremiah’s words? But even Jeremiah nodded off eventually. Meanwhile the chickens, who bear most directly this philippic — as ever the poor and innocent take the brunt of the moralizing while the rich and guilty burrow under complacent roofs and watch through glass — the chickens cower under trees, hunker grumpily in the rising mud and release now and then a desolate squawk that pierces the white noise of the downpour. They too have a house, but the mist and dampness invade it, and they are not overly fond of close company nor, perhaps, sufficiently intelligent to think of it. Worms flee the flooded soil, out of the frying pan into the fire, or out of the sink and onto the plate: from the buckthorn a robin sings of his lunch. The wood is a swamp, my walking path a river in whose current a beetle drifts on a raft made of leaves. The downspout rumbles like a dump truck on the street. And now, at last, as if to compete, thunder — portending what? More of the same? Thunder missed his cue, sometime yesterday afternoon. Who has ears, listen, but no one is listening any longer, only wondering when it will end so we can join the birds for the doxology and go home to dinner.