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The ones with promise
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I will never understand rain. Never understand how it falls so straight, drips so musically, runs so swiftly downhill. Never understand how it begins so quickly, stops so quickly, puddles so perfectly still.

I will forever be amazed at the scent of rain in summer, the feel of rain in winter, the taste of rain in springtime foretelling tomatoes and okra and corn. Its slick softness and soft slickness and mirror-like reflections of sunlight; its sound on leaves and roofs and roads, under feet and paws and tires, the splat and splash and slosh.

And I will never become accustomed to, but forever be prepared for the sudden and fierce rushing that it makes sweeping across the open fields in the middle of the night, unhindered and unencumbered, like an unbroken stallion.

I was almost home — with less than half a mile of just-plowed dirt road between me and the driveway — when the stallion galloped toward me. In less than 30 seconds, the way was transformed from gloomy, but visible to white and impenetrable. I felt the dirt-turned-mud grasp at the tires and pull them back and forth like a child waving a flag on the Fourth of July. The water pelted against the windshield in hard bursts as I loosened my grip on the steering wheel, holding it just firmly enough to ease the car away from the ditches that felt far deeper than usual.

With only a few yards left to navigate — sliding on the stretch of road where the ditches disappear and there is nothing but low furrows between the road and the fields — I let go of the breath I’d held for what seemed 10 minutes just as the car swung sideways and moved toward the plowed dirt. In some miracle display of physics, it swung back around and into the driveway. Not for the first time I thanked God for a carport.

An hour later, the rain was gone. In the distance, the sky was still a dull pewter color, like a plate left outside, and the air was full of moisture, but nothing fell. I walked around the yard and felt the water from the grass seep through my tennis shoes and then through my socks. Making my way through the backyard, under the sawtooth oaks and the sycamore that guard the northern perimeter, I saw that, as usual, the sycamore had lost a lot of branches. Long and skinny and knotty like an old woman’s fingers. Most of them were a couple of feet long, but one I picked up was taller than I am. As wet as they were, they managed to rattle a little in my hands as I held them together and walked toward the branch to toss them away.

It was on my way back, I think, that I noticed how full the sycamore had grown in the last week, how green its frothy leaves had become, how shady it is going to be come summer.

I stopped under the long limbs and realized that, despite all the branches it had lost, it was still whole. And then it came to me that all the branches I’d picked up, all the ones I’d tossed away had been leafless. Not a one of them had born a single leaf.

The rain, the hard, hard rain and its accompanying wind, had not broken off one branch that was running with sap, that was producing life, but only those that were dead.

I’ve had a few things fall at my feet lately. Fall in response to sudden storms I didn’t see coming. I’m just now realizing that the ones that fell were the dead branches. The ones with life, with promise are still hanging on.

They are producing leaves and catching a breeze and I can tell it’s gonna be a shady summer.


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