My mother is a seamstress. I grew up sitting on the floor at her feet playing with cards of buttons and seam binding, arranging dozens of spools of thread in prism arcs, studiously examining pictures and descriptions on pattern envelopes. It should come as no surprise, then, that images of the natural world often come to me in dressmaker's terms.
Barely visible quail tracks across the road look like hem-stitching. Green corn husks feel like dupioni silk. The incessant knocking of a woodpecker way down in the branch clatters just like the zipper foot on a Singer.
This morning I looked out over the deck at the peanut field that pushes up as far as the chinaberry tree at the corner of the yard and I saw a silver-gray cardigan embellished with row upon row of dark green soutache trim. Classic and elegant.
A couple of nights ago I sat outside with Mama and Daddy while they picked off peanuts for boiling and asked him when he would start plowing them up. "I'd be doing it now," he said, "if the ground weren't so dry. We need rain."
We need rain.
Three words. A simple declarative statement. He didn't even look up when he said it, just kept plucking the white-skinned eights from their vines and dropping them into a bowl.
We need rain. It is the summer's chant, cheer, plea and prayer.
In the spring, when it is time to plant, we watch the skies closely, measure the water that falls from the sky in tenths of inches, count the days between showers like children count M&Ms. In summer, when the seeds have graciously responded to the rain and our entreaties by breaking themselves open and bursting into the air, thin ribbons of stiff green velvet, we watch and measure and count some more and add to those ministrations the magic of irrigation, great arcs of rhinestones glittering in the dazzling sunlight and splashing flatly onto vines that have sprouted hundreds of tiny leaves.
By now, by fall, should not the watching, measuring, counting be done?
I know the answer to that question. I don't ask why — when the peanuts are fully mature, when there is no more growing left to do, when they are ready to be plowed up and left in the sun to dry — we need rain. The answer is release.
There is a reason we call it Mother Earth. She nurtures. She protects. She also clings. She holds tightly. She does not let go without a fight. The rain must come to loosen her grip on that which she believes is hers.
We all, men and women, mothers and non, understand that. Each of us knows what it is to conceive and bear a dream, an idea, a relationship. We tend it (Isn't it interesting that "tend" and "tender" are almost the same word?) and nourish it, often to our own detriment. We chant and cheer and plead and pray. We coax it out of the ground and delight in its appearance.
But we tend (There's that word again.) to forget that the cycle of growth is never complete until there is a harvest. Until that which has been grown is picked, plucked, shucked or, sometimes, slaughtered. And because we are not capable of letting go on our own, the rain comes. Gently, softly, tenderly loosening the soil, loosening our grip.
Eventually, within days I hope, the clouds will empty over Adabelle and the peanut plows will roll over my silver-gray cardigan removing its soutache trim. The stitches will unravel smoothly and evenly and the fabric will not be torn.