Eagle Rock -- I’m dancing a little two-step as I head outside this sunny morning into our backyard – which has become an even more important place since the pandemic. It’s a retreat from the world, but it is also the world.
While the skies are still a lazy blue, I am preparing the yard for tonight's rain storm like I am straightening the house for much-anticipated company. Bring in the hammock and cushions. Unclip the laundry. Make sure the rain gutter is clear. Stake up leaning plants. And find those bowls.
I scan around terraces, the herb planters and the fruit trees. I’m looking for the giant stainless steel bowls you typically find in restaurants.
I find them stacked behind the grill suckered up against a concrete wall and near our neighbor’s hen house. There’s a scurry of feathers and low chicken murmurs accented with an occasional squawk. “Good morning, Ms. Clucks,” I sing to them through the wire fence. They stop their pecking and, with a vacant look, tilt their heads toward me. “Get prepared. The rains are coming! Don’t walk around with your beaks open.”
While the bees buzz overhead in the bottle bush tree, I sit with the dirty bowls on a terrace step. I blow out the dust, shake out the leaves and give them each a light finger brushing. Time to put these babies back to work. I then walk over to position them under the drip line of the roof to collect the rainwater; I am careful not to place too close to the steps of the deck because my husband Jim often doesn’t see them and, in the past, has kicked over full bowls, soaking his shoes and socks. He’ll curse, but he knows rainwater is a precious commodity here in Southern California Droughtland.
It’s not just metal bowls. I’ll position any viable vessel under the drip line: plastic cat litter jugs, pots with no bottom holes, small tubs, gallon storage boxes, take out trays, ice chests, mini garbage cans, aluminum pails, plastic popcorn buckets – anything with depth. Once they’re overflowing, I’ll pour the liquid into our large rain barrel that’s poised underneath the down spout from the roof.
It’s been years since that rain barrel has been full. And tonight the rains are coming.
I’ve been known to race outside in a deluge to empty the filled containers and then replace them for another round. This rain hoarder mentality has me rubbing my hands like Gollum in anticipation of tonight’s storm.
At the drip line, I step back and look at what I have created with the containers – a mashup of performance and folk art that is an oddly hopeful kind of desperation. But I don’t care. I’m so giddy about the rain. Is it because I’ve lived in dry Los Angeles so long – or from the lack of daily excitement from pandemic life? I can’t tell anymore and frankly. I don’t care.
The rains are coming. And the rains make everything hopeful.
There are vaccine worries, rising COVID deaths, political extremists and other daily horrors.
But tonight the rains are coming.
Today, I sense the birds chirping with more urgency as they hop on the ground or cling on bush limbs searching for bugs. The wind picks up and the little chimes tinkle somewhat ominously. A bank of thick gray clouds rises in the west. I think about all the different kinds of rains I’ve felt. Flash floods in Arizona, summer cloudbursts in Denver, gentle soaking mists in Seattle. But nothing compares to those fierce Midwestern thunderstorms that rattle your insides on hot humid days. These boomers demand attention and hey, you better drop whatever you are doing, sit down and listen to the story.
“It’s just the angels bowling,” is how my grandmother described thunder to me as a kid. I imagined heavenly beings hurling bowling balls down an Earthly Alleyway.
The rains are coming. And for a while, many in SoCal will stop, sit and listen. This evening, some will make soup or turn on the oven for bread or fill up the brandy glass. We’ll watch out windows and marvel and the drops. Lying in bed, I’ll listen for the musical tones of rainwater striking metal bowls because what I collect this evening can last for months and months.
As the winds pick up more and the skies turn charcoal, I take one last look at the backyard. Is everything in place for the guests? How’s my welcome mat look?
The rains are coming.
And I want them to soak me, fill me, splash me and nearly drown me with possibilities.
Brenda Rees is a writer who lives in Eagle Rock