The first summer of my marriage some two decades ago endures in memory as a season softened by rain. Each afternoon, or so it seemed, with the regularity of a train schedule, a light shower arrived to anoint our first garden and break the fever of the day. Our new garden hose lay most of the summer on its rack, decorative but unemployed, like a cat coiled on the couch.
Slugs dangled like earrings from our impatiens, sage and salvia. We laid saucers of beer on the garden walk to lure some of the slugs to their drunken deaths, a strategy that did little to diminish their biblical abundance.
The pestilence seemed a small price to pay for a pattern of precipitation that otherwise made gardening appear easy. Weather became something to rely upon, a source of theater that invited us to drag out our chairs after weekend lunches and watch the clouds empty themselves on the yard. My tomatoes languished from too much shade that year, but they got hydration aplenty.
That season of strong morning sun and wet afternoons remains our family’s gold standard of what summer should be, a yardstick against which other summers of our marriage have invariably been measured.
We remembered that summer with longing during a drought season when our daughter, then a small child, actually forgot what rain was, looking quizzically out the window one day when a rare shower darkened the petals of the cone flowers on our patio. The thought of water falling from the sky seemed a miracle to her — and, indeed, to us as well.
Throughout much of the United States this summer, weather watchers are crossing their fingers and hoping for their own miracles as they wait for rain to break agonizing droughts. South Louisiana is one of the few spots on the national map where regular showers this month have brought relief.
The rain-softened ground has made digging easier, a nice windfall for my wife as she planted a palm and tucked a mayhaw tree into the ground. Summer isn’t the best time to plant most trees, but the mayhaw arrived on our doorstep as a gift and couldn’t live out the summer in its plastic pot. Recent rains have been a godsend for the tree as it roots.
With the right balance of sun and rain, things sprout in a garden whether we plant them or not. A few days ago, my wife spotted a stray muscadine vine heavy with fruit as it climbed along a scrub tree near the fence. Its discovery reminded me favorably of the tiny glass of muscadine wine, served by an indulgent aunt, that once warmed a winter evening of my adolescence — my first taste of a fermented beverage. The hot and tingling feeling at the back of my throat convinced me that muscadines, not apples, must have been the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
Eden couldn’t have been any greener than the south Louisiana landscape this summer, nourished by rain that is largely a blessing, even if it makes the grass grow with a vengeance.
We mow the lawn between cloudbursts, thankful for showers that our neighbors would gladly embrace.