Big Wind, Many Raindrops

Got up in the dark to brew tea and sit quietly before going to work…the wind blew across the opening of the metal chimney, and rain clattered. When light came, I stepped out and heard the wind in the trees. The sound took me straight back to childhood. My parents bought an old farmhouse in the country, and my brother, sister and I slept upstairs. My memory is of angled ceilings and dormers, casement windows and corners. Our beds were tucked under the roof. Although it seemed further, the Pacific Ocean was about fifty miles to the west. Winter storms brought high winds and rain crashing in from the coast. That old house shook and rocked as the wind rushed around all the angles of the house. Rain battered the roof. And we slept, tucked under quilts made by grandmothers, with favorite stuffed animals beside us. I would wake in the dark to hear the voices of the Douglas-fir trees grow louder as the wind blew harder. The air animated them like nothing else.

I never learned to be afraid of the wind or trees. Alert, but not afraid. These things are alive and in motion, and I can only get hurt if I am in the wrong place at the right time. There’s nothing malicious about the wind. So I go out, to hear it and feel it (and come back in if it’s too harsh). The wind travels more miles from the ocean where I live now, and speeds up as it pushes through gaps in the mountains.

Inches of rain have fallen since last week’s return from the backcountry. Ventured out today to discover fresh snow on familiar peaks. After a long dry spell, the creeks rise. A big change and adjustments are needed: soup in the thermos for lunch, rain gear, extra layers, waterproofing on the boots.

I’m grateful for a sturdy roof, quilts, and a hot supper.

Increase

Every now and then I slide the top of the beehive open and breathe in the sweet smell of honeycomb. I like to keep an eye on their progress. The colony has increased from the handful of bees who survived winter. The queen is strong, and the sisterhood of workers grows. They have made their way from the main hive body into the deep super on top. I just ordered a medium super with frames, and when it arrives I’ll slip in a screen to exclude the queen and then the bees can make some honey for me. I’m more than happy to let them keep the bottom two boxes of honey for themselves. After all, they’re doing all the work.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They don’t really need me, I suppose. If I didn’t provide the hive and garden, they would go somewhere else. I take them a quart of sugar water every few days, which I think they like more for the water than the sugar. Henry and I keep marauders away (mice!). In return they pollinate every flower in sight, add life and color to the garden, and provide some sweetness for my winter cooking.

These bees are so gentle. I go out there with no gloves or veil, no smoker. Henry lies on the ground by the hive, rubs on it. If I accidentally bump the boxes, an angry buzzing rises up from inside, and I prepare to back off. They settle back down. I’ve only been stung a couple times, and that was in the early spring when I was too rough picking up a frame to inspect. But mostly we live in peace.

It’s midsummer, the time of increase. This week I hear a demanding shrilling from the birdhouse, and watch the bluebird parents fly back and forth with  single-minded purpose. In with a beakful of bugs, out with a fecal sac of baby poop. Lettuce grows in small patches in the raised beds, strawberries ripen, and I see that I have garlic scapes. These are the curled tops of garlic plants that want to flower. But if the energy of the plant is to go into the bulb I need to cut the scapes while they are tender and find a way to turn them into something delectable.

In the meantime, it rains and rains here in the Pacific Northwest. A grumble of thunder penetrated my hearing while I was curled under two quilts early this morning. The sky is unsettled, with dramatic shifts of violet-gray darkness. The clouds open, rain batters down and rattles on the metal chimney. Soon the shower passes and the day lightens. It goes on like this. I feel cranky about it. Laundry tumbles in the dryer instead of hanging on the line. The bread doesn’t rise as well as on a sunny day. I look at my backpack which I am loading for this week’s work trip up the Waptus River trail. Am I going to want a few extra creature comforts for rainy days? I don’t want the weight–the goal is to always go as light as possible. But not so light as to be miserable.

Where are the lazy hazy crazy days of summer? A wise local says that summer doesn’t really start here until the 4th of July. I look out the window at the beehive. At the moment, watery sunlight shines on the garden. The bees are coming and going, to-ing and fro-ing. I don’t hear any whining from them. I reckon there’s a lesson from them, a metaphor for life. Complaining doesn’t help. Live in this moment. Fly and gather goodness while the days are long and the honeyflow is on. Hunker down when it rains, bask in the center of a flower when the sun shines. Go out and come back again and again.

I can do that, and I hope my work serves the world as much as the bees’ does.

How to Spend a Very Rainy Day

If you are a plant, slurp it up!

Allium (douglasii?)

If you are an animal, hunker!

When I went out to snap some photos, I could hear Henry’s jay friends muttering from deep within the branches of the cedar tree.

I am grateful for a roof that doesn’t leak, iTunes, wool shirt, green tea, the garden getting watered, a chance to catch up on some projects in the house…

Where My Eye Goes, Part 2

Yesterday’s walk was in the rain at Cowiche Canyon. My eyes were gobbling up the greening hillsides, the shapes of basalt rocks, the rushing creek, magpies…but the overwhelming sense was smell. When cottonwood leaves open, they release a sweetness into the air that is thick and warm and rich like honey. The dampness from the rain heightened the perfume, until I could also smell a tang of sage and a sharp green note of all the plants that were growing.

I floated on this scent trail, almost unaware of the rain until I reached the aspens. Their leaves are unfurled and tender, and the dangling catkins are bloomed out. What caught my eye was the pattern of marks made by water trickling down the trunks. How did this form? Something in the way the rain fell and dripped from the new leaves, then gathered to follow gravity around the bole of the tree? I didn’t ponder this very much, just went from tree to tree to appreciate the variations.

Nature is a pattern-maker, the ultimate creative designer, the master teacher of all of us who are compelled to create also.