After the rain

It’s been a dry spring in Toronto and most of Ontario. I don’t know officially if we were in a drought, but I know that May days looked more like August days—clear blue skies, dried out lawns, unhappy flowers failing to thrive.

To the rest of the world, it was the perfect spring weather—every single day: blue skies, unstoppable sun, and heat.

I on the other hand was trying to ruin everyone else’s fun and prayed daily for rain. Well, I don’t really pray, but I wished hard, repeating it over and over again, “please, please, please” and cursed the sun.

During the summer growing up, I lived beside the sea. Every day I was so blessed to roll out of bed, into a bathing suit and often by 10 was on the beach until dragged away to dinner. The very best of days. Sun, waves, wind. Perfection.

But I had a soft spot in my heart for the days when I woke up to rain drumming on my windows, clouds darkening the sky, and a quiet house where everyone slept in a little later than usual. Those days were quiet and different from our sunny day routines. Maybe we’d do chores, go to a museum, look through stores, or poke around the dust covered closets filled with old family things. My favorite thing would be to curl up with a book and no one would bother me or try to get me to run about. Rainy days were for quiet and contemplation.

I also grew up in rainy and overcast country in New York. There is something about a spring with slate blue clouds that makes the vegetation iridescent green. Those days I like to walk aimlessly, drive slowly.

My mind needs a rainy day just like the plants and soils.

Slow down, a rainy day says to me. Watch. Listen. 

Grow. But do it slowly please.

A hard rain’s a gonna fall

When I was in university, I started listening to Bob Dylan. Much of my early 20s was spent flying down the highway, wind in my hair, singing Dylan songs at the top of my lungs.

I thought about Dylan today as I surveyed the damage of the storm that rolled through when I was away visiting family.

My co-worker, who was at the greenhouse at the time, dealing with the insane storm called it “apocalyptic.”

I thought of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” as I was harvesting and wondering if my flowers were going to recover from the onslaught of rain, wind, and hail and whether it would have made a difference whether I was in town or not.

But being away shifted something in me. Spending time with family, catching up with friends, and spending some quiet time in a beautiful place gave me perspective.

Yes, the hail storm was bad, but there was nothing I could do about it. That’s farming—cultivating surrender alongside trying to keep things in hand. Sometimes there’s sun. Other times there’s clouds. Sometimes there’s lightning. Hopefully there is rain and not too much. Then sometimes there’s hail and wind. And there’s very little you can do about it.

I always though Dylan’s song was in protest of the Cold War. Listening again to it today and reading up on it, turns out it was never about nuclear war and its fall out.

"No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen.”

This is what Dylan said in a radio interview in 1963. Just rain. Hard rain. And sometimes, it’s just going to fall. It may been apocalyptic in character, but really a storm is a storm. Meanwhile I was hundreds of miles away enjoying my last evening with my family, watching the sunset and my aunt and uncle dance. Sharing my love of farming with my aunt. Cultivating some peace in my harried mind.

I love my flowers, but I chose to grow them because I knew the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t get it right or if nature moved against me in its totally impersonal way. In the end, flowers are flowers—beautiful, but ephemeral. There will always be another blossom, another year to get it right, but time with those I love is precious beyond reckoning. Beautiful and necessary.