Today I danced in the rain. It was a bumper sticker moment. I am too old to do this sort of thing, but I did it anyway.
It is late summer in the South a time when the garden is gasping for water, parched, and wilted looking as if the residents might not make it to September. This year’s mild summer temperatures (an oxymoron in the South) coupled with ample rain have kept the garden blooms presentable not emaciated. Soon the garden centers will restock with mums, zinnias and pansies. Those that worship their dirt, start nosing around for this second season of planting. Unlike Westerners where there is just one riotous explosion during the summer months, the Southern gardener has two chances to get down and dirty for the love of it all. The first wave begins in January with winter jasmine, February with snowdrops daffodils and sometimes redbud. March is definitely redbud season, April dogwoods and azaleas followed by the roses of May and those impressive magnolias before June.
Tending this Tennessee garden for over 2 decades keeps a rhythm inside my bones humming with the fertile soil. Deep within I can feel when it is time to clear the dead fodder in springtime, when to toss out the poppy and cosmos seeds and the right time to replenish for the fall garden. Today felt right to liven up the beds so I hoped the new arrivals were waiting for me . My favorite nearby haunt is a garden supply heaven that hugs against one side of a short split in Richland Creek. The former owners were a father and son named Moore. Old Mr. Moore not only knew my name but was also a ferocious flirt. He loved to talk to the women and girls who came to survey his bountiful offerings. Every time I came by the store Mr. Moore would strike up a conversation about our common bond, a skanky bar in Evergreen Colorado called The Little Bear. He visited the old cowboy bar many years back, and I of course went there as a newly christened 21 year old. It was the kind of place you wore jeans and nothing nicer since the smell of it would stay with you until your clothes were washed. It felt comforting hearing someone tell stories about any place near where I grew up.
The Moore’s took care of my gardening needs over the years and even me when I was divorced. I moved several times and cultivated gardens wherever I lived over the years. Moore and Moore was my go to garden supply place full of hardy offerings and advice to a non-native. I loved each garden I planted nurturing the earth as I dug the places to rest each plant. Only this last garden has had enough time to come into its own blooming paradise. Mr. Moore and his son Paul were kind to me when I was hopeful and starting over. But they also let me cry without judgment with each garden I left, knowing the tears were sometimes more than for the beloved lilac or azalea bushes had they sold to me.
Mr. Moore’s son eventually left to open his own place down the highway. After many years Mr. Moore ended his final season himself. The new owner is nice and kept a couple folks with him that are familiar. I still go there every year, even though no one really knows me anymore. They are polite and acknowledge my familiar face. But I go because I remember Mr. Moore, his son and his feisty wife who was in charge of the roses. Also I go to remember long conversations about wildflowers and scruffy bars in the Rockies and other Western tidbits we all enjoyed. And I get to find a few things to dress up my garden for the coming season.
So today when I returned home with my pots of zinnias the clouds looked a bit dark but not threatening. I forged ahead thankful for the cloudy day and a modest goal of refreshing my pots. Sooner than expected a few drops started then quickened. I grabbed my tools and headed to the garage for shelter. For some reason the rain caught and held my attention. It was gentle but looked like it could either build or pass which kept me watching. I found myself lingering watching the drops moisten the black asphalt driveway. At first only the exposed areas darkened while under the trees remained dry. Gradually the volume of the rain increased. I stepped out under the eave looking up to see what the clouds might reveal. The drops were large and coming down straight as if each was sent to a hit a specific spot on the grass or trees. The number grew, the rain changed from slaps to pouring. The wet driveway became saturated with tiny rivulets of water spreading to cover every spot from the middle to the edges of the drive. I hadn’t moved a smidgeon while all this unfolded.
Then I did it.
I went inside and stripped down to my shirt and underwear. it was as if the small child inside me had crawled out materializing into a solid breathing sprite who tugged my hand jumping up and down insisting I do the crazy dance with her. Of course I had read the bumper stickers about not waiting for the storm to pass. But I did not give into my personal vanity and idealized version of myself as cool, original or unique. Apparently my childlike side had been waiting for just this kind of day to be the bumper sticker not just read the words. So it was time. I raced out into the rain. My face turned up as I was gently patted by the fat wet drops. My tongue was delighted by the coolness of each splat. My feet were singing the Hallelujah chorus which I did not really know but felt I did in that moment. Yes, my feet were the happiest of all. The water felt thick under my tender soles as I stepped and sloshed around. It seemed my toes were swirling in clear liquid whip cream. The rain was not cold, nor was I as I puttered around in the warm miniature flood. The lovely splashy feeling made perfect sense and I wondered why my grown up self did not give my feet this chance more often.
I twirled and giggled to myself and only stopped when I realized the new neighbors might be concerned about their recent relocation if they happened to be home and looking out of the windows. It was worth it though. I have always been crazy in different ways at different levels of odd depending on the audience. People buy bumper stickers for a reason. Sometimes to tease or rebel or define. This one inspired an older woman to act. I chose a simple pleasure that day and when it happened Joy spun freely around my soul and into the trees.