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Kathy Bradley

Wait for the relief of the rain

And then it rained. Thick and heavy, the water hit the roof, hit the ground like a percussion instrument and the music surrounded the house, surrounded me.
    After so many weeks of choking dust and bleaching light and burning heat, the landscape was thin and flat, but in a matter of only moments, it seemed, depth and color returned. Shallow puddles appeared in the yard. The dull monotone green of grass and trees and kudzu changed into luminous Crayola hues of kelly and chartreuse and olive.
    As soon as it stopped I put on a pair of mud-worthy tennis shoes and set out. Down the field road, over the newly-cleared pond dam and around the edges of the laid-out corner field, I walked deliberately, measuring my steps, taking in the inimitable scent of corn-after-rain. My breaths slowed, my steps slowed, my thoughts slowed.
    Mist settled on my arms and in my hair. Wet itchy vines wrapped around my ankles. Branches shook in the breeze and baptized me with a million tiny drops. Like the ground beneath me I was soaking it in.
    You see, drought isn’t only a condition of geography and weather. It is, at least metaphorically speaking, an emotion and, like a literal drought, can result in wildfires — wildfires of self-condemnation or, in the other extreme, self-importance.
    Go long enough without rain and your heart will lapse into survival mode, holding on to everything, giving up nothing out of fear of losing all. Go long enough without water — without the thirst-slaking taste of it in your mouth, without the cleansing feel of it on your skin — and your heart will shrivel up and die.
    I was almost there and the rain had come just in time.
    Now, no longer panting, I could begin listening to the conversation that had been going on between my heart and my head for days, maybe months. A conversation I had effectively ignored by focusing on the drought.
    You have to listen hard when a conversation is being carried on in a whisper. You have to pay close attention to grasp the gist of the exchange. No longer consumed with thirst, I could.
    I listened all the way back to the house and I was still listening when I talked to a friend of mine yesterday. She mentioned someone we both know who was going through a drought. The life she’d been handed wasn’t turning out in accordance with the architectural renderings she had so carefully drawn and, as a result, she had done some uncharacteristic things.
    She needs some water. She needs a tall glass, a hot shower, a long swim, a good cry. I know.
    What I want to tell her was that in the middle of a drought — when all you can see are the stalks twisting tighter and the river banks growing taller and the dust clouds rising higher and it’s hard, impossible even, to remember the taste of sweet corn, the smell of bream beds, the tickle of an afternoon breeze, when the sky is empty and the heat of the day lingers long into the night, it is not a good idea to move around a lot. In the middle of a drought, you stay inside when you can and move slowly when you can’t. You save the striving and purposefulness for another day. You turn the pillow over to the cool side, lie very still and wait.
    Wait for the rain.
    That is what I want to tell her. I hope she’s listening.

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