Some people thought it was the end of the world. I thought it was the center.
There was a lot to love about my West Texas hometown. Beautiful sunsets, fields of cotton as far as the eye could see, clouds sailing overhead like great fleets of ships — as well as a beautiful old theater, a big swimming pool, a bustling square. I grew up believing we had the best schools, the best basketball teams, the prettiest girls, the nicest people, the happiest dogs, the best Mexican food.
About the only thing we didn’t have was a lot of rain.
I don’t think I ever saw an issue of the newspaper that didn’t have a weather- or farm-related story. When we had a big rain, happy little frogs splashed across the top of the front page. In church, every prayer invoked the blessing of rain on our crops.
I never understood the songs about rainy days being bad days. Rain made us want to dance in the street — and we probably would have, except for the way most of us were raised to look upon dancing.
Rain was the stuff of life, a reminder that God did care for us — some years more than others. When He wanted to, he could shower blessings down on us, in soaking waves of sweet water from heaven.
Rain saved the crops, filled playa lakes, recharged the aquifer, baptized everything clean. After a big rain, I would make little boats and sail them in the wide gutter in front of the church across the street, then chase them as they joined tributaries, flowing down to the park where they fed a small lake that seemed like an ocean to me.
That, of course, was a long time ago. After more than 30 years living near Fort Worth, the West Texas rains of my childhood are just a vivid memory. But a love of rain is in my DNA.
For a couple of decades, we’ve made our home on not-quite-three acres west of Azle. Some years, dry winters coughed their way into dry springs, as we wondered if anything was going to leaf out, or if it was all just going to burn down to dirt in the summer sun.
Other years, the rain came in great cloud-borne buckets, and there were floods. I took pictures of guys canoeing into their garages, seeing what they could salvage off the top shelves. I remember standing on an old bridge, watching big round bales of hay take float, feeling them bump as they bounced underneath me on their way into the lake.
I guess I’ve learned not to get too down in the dry times or too high in the wet times. But I still believe, like the old water park commercial, that “good times are wet times” — and this year is one I’ll savor for a long, long time.
Every flower, every blade of grass, every tree on our place has all the water it needs right now. The irises put on a show this spring, and the azaleas, the Carolina jessamine and all the flower pots dazzled with color. Vinca and Asian jasmine have filled in every bare spot, trees are lush and the English ivy is climbing the walls.
For awhile, I thought my new redbud tree had missed the party.
I planted it in late winter, carefully placing it in just the right spot, mulching it and watering it thoroughly. But while all the other redbuds, all over town, were in glorious display, mine still hadn’t leafed out.
I thought about ripping it out of the ground and taking it back to the nursery. Instead, I stopped by one day, told the owner what was, or wasn’t, going on, and asked her what to do. She told me not to give up on it. Scratch the bark and see if it’s green inside. Water it, she said. Give it time.
She was right. First one bud, then another popped out and leaves began to unfold. It didn’t bloom this spring, but it’s put on a foot of new growth and big broad leaves that shimmer in the dappled sunlight. I can’t wait for next spring to see it join in the chorus of blooms.
It will always remind me of the well-watered times. And next spring, if I need to water it, I will.