Let the rain come down

Another week, another picture of fruit on the kitchen table.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m deeply grateful for these small pleasures, the fresh flavor of food grown just outside my door.

This week I’ve been grateful for laughter with my daughter, a soft morning rain, evenings filled with warm light and conversation, and a fair number of other small, vital gifts.

Still, it was a hard one. Again.

Drought-evading plants – non-succulent perennials which restrict their growth activity to periods when moisture is available. Typically, they are drought-deciduous shrubs which go dormant or die back during dry periods.


The particulars of my personal drought are not important; we all have circumstances that can blanch us brittle, especially now.

Standing in the shower one day this week, water streaming over my body that feels more and more foreign, a land I neither recognize nor feel at ease in, I wondered why I cannot find much interest or joy in things that once provided an abundance of both.

When our lives rest upon hardpan, there’s only a skim of earth, fingertip deep, that we can dig into with our hands. Roots find little purchase in such soil.

There are workarounds for hardpan: tools to break it loose (forks, spades, chisels), amendments that can be added.

Or, we can adapt: Go dormant and accept that we will grow and bloom only when sufficient hydration is available.

These past few weeks, I feel myself becoming sharp and prickly, my words sometimes barbed as a xerophyte’s spines. Deep, quiet anger is a constant, terrible presence threatening to scorch the earth of me.

I share with a friend my intention to shut down, conserve my resources, grow a less pervious skin, and she answers with thoughts about my integrity, a feature she considers defining.

Definition of integrity
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values INCORRUPTIBILITY
2: an unimpaired condition SOUNDNESS
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided COMPLETENESS


Her words wash over me and tears breach the dam of my self-control.

It’s been a structure lacking integrity for weeks, allowing leaks, streams, torrents precipitated by almost nothing–a word, a flash of memory, a stray item happened upon–and it feels like such an extravagant spilling, an excess of fluid that leaves me nothing but parched.

What I would give to feel complete, incorrupt, and sound once again.

I grew on land bordered by tides, water that advanced upon and retreated from rocky beaches. Now, I live next to rivers that run in one direction past sandy banks.

I need water to be the person I think of as me.

How do we survive drought? I don’t really know. Sometimes we don’t.

Last year I planted a small hydrangea tree. It has been a gorgeous thing, full of creamy petals and vibrant, supple leaves. I love the tree, whose only purpose is to be beautiful. This week, after days of relentless heat, I realized its branches were drooping and its leaves were spotting, some turning dry and dropping.

“Nononono,” I whispered to it. “You cannot die.”

I brought out a sprinkler and soaked the bed it grows in, only then noticing how its edges had cracked and pulled away from the pavement bordering it. When did that happen? How did I let it?

We are all connected, my drought contributing to its.

What are the limits of adaptation? I’m thinking that a hydrangea cannot simply mutate into a xerophyte. But what do I know? The cactus was once a rose. Still, I think we’d all agree: A cactus is no longer a rose, which begets the question: What does it mean to survive?

I clip a branch from the hydrangea, and another from a brambly variety of rose that grows in an unruly thicket in the back corner of the yard. I put them in a vase to decorate a table for a birthday dinner. I light candles. I take pleasure in contrasts of line and color. We eat good food and have a nice time. I celebrate that I can still feel such pleasures and experience such times as much as I do the birth of the life we are honoring.

There are many things I don’t know, but I do know this: 73% of the brain and heart is water, and movement is water’s constant. Tides and currents. Evaporation and precipitation. What’s here will go, and what’s gone will come around again, in some form or another, even though we can’t step into the same river twice.

11 thoughts on “Let the rain come down

  1. Marian says:

    Sending you a hug, Rita. I know how hard it is to be a person of integrity in an impossible situation. I wish things were better for you, or that there was at least the hope that things would be better soon. Stay strong, my friend.
    xo Marian

  2. TD says:

    I’m sorry for another hard week of enduring, Rita. As this week was hard here, too. Unknowing. Exhaustion. Decisions. How to survive?

    Do you want to go back to your school job? For me, I would not want to, for so many reasons. So, I understand the thoughts of conserving resources, giving yourself the permission to flow another direction, to search or create a new.

    While all of what I have done and endured in just the past several months the changing of my flow and direction has been helping me with some of my emotional hardships. Some moments are better than others, Rita. And it is in those tiny moments that I feel that fleeting joy to take my next breath into the unknown.

    • Rita says:

      Yes, I keep reminding myself that all states of being are transitory. I’m working on letting them flow through me. It’s a work in progress.

      To answer your question: No, I don’t want to go back to my school job. Based on what I know from the spring, it will require far more adaptation than I want to make.

      • TD says:

        I will share that I am also at the point of intentions to as you call it to shut down my efforts and conserve all of my resources, including my energy resources; though I know I am not capable of growing less pervious skin, I do think I would be conserving my integrity, dignity and sanity. And I do think that I want to just let this transition move as it will with or without me trying to control what is not mine to control. I feel most of the time that I just want to focus my energy on my small, tiny life with just me and my loving Yorkie. Selfish maybe, but more exhausting, depression inducing and anxiety driven than what it’s worth at my age and fewer days ahead.

        Please keep writing, Rita! You do help us all feel so less alone as Kate says. We need you and want to hear your words.

        • Rita says:

          I think there is no one right answer for everyone, and I don’t think it’s selfish to prioritize your own health. I think, too, that different things are needed from us at different stages of life. I don’t need to contribute in the same way I did when I was younger and had different resources.

  3. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    That commenter above. “Another week of enduring” Yes, YES. That is exactly it.
    Your words are poetry for those of us who don’t know how to put them together in exactly that way. THIS is why I say to you, never. ever stop writing these words. Even if they are too painful to write.
    We need to remember these days as hard as they are.
    Yesterday we went for a drive in the country and passed by signs for Trump. Keep America Great.
    Sign after sign on farm after farm. I said to my husband, “it isn’t relaxing anymore, these drives. The country isn’t a reprieve like it used to me. It represents something different now for me, at least. Our country hates itself. America hates Americans.” Sigh.
    Keep writing these words, Rita.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…My Top Seven Blog Names if I Was to Ever Start Another BlogMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, Kari. Those signs. That is what I mean by hardpan. I think about when you and I used to write blogs about DIY home improvement, and it feels so far away and frivolous–but I could be frivolous in that way because I trusted the ground I stood upon to support and nurture us. I could devote energy to things with no other purpose than to be beautiful. I know that beauty is still important, that it is a thing we need. But it’s not at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory I think of often now. I also know that it was never that way for many people. I was ignorant, and now I’m scared that so many others seem not to know or understand the ground we’re all trying to grow in. When I see such signs I want to burn them all down.

      Thank you for letting me know that these kinds of posts matter to you. I shared on FB and got crickets in response. I’m never quite sure of what that means.

  4. Kate says:

    Everything has been so hard, Rita, and I appreciate you putting it to words each and every week so that I can feel a little less alone.

    As much as I want to survive, I don’t want to adapt to the way things are now. I don’t want to feel this heartbroken and angry all the time but I also know it’s RIGHT to feel that way when so much is broken. I feel a lot like a toddler – knowing enough to know things aren’t right but not having enough control to fix them and without a clue as to how regulate my feelings. I’m too old to feel like a toddler.

    I’m sending hugs. I don’t know what else to say. Those blueberries look amazing.

    • Rita says:

      Yes, you’ve nailed exactly how I feel: I don’t want to adapt, either. And I also feel like a toddler. You being here makes me feel less alone, too.

      I keep wanting to make a recipe with the blueberries that you shared several weeks back. Maybe today I will.

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