Chapel Hill: Opinion

August 30, 2014

Derrick Ivey: Waiting for rain

A large part of my life revolves around plants and animals and generally being out of doors. So the weather matters.

I check the forecast often. And it often frustrates me.

A large part of my life revolves around plants and animals and generally being out of doors. So the weather matters.

Sunny cool days are great for big messy chores like barn-mucking. Sunny hot days are good for pulling weeds in the shade. Hot humid days are for slogging through only what I absolutely have to do, and complaining as little as possible.

A dry spell means I’ll have to haul out the hoses and water the gardens.

Rainy days may have a bad reputation, but I consider them to be blessings. Washing away built-up dust and pollen. Watering plants. Gently trapping me indoors and encouraging me to re-focus, re-charge, and recuperate. Rainy days can offer a clean slate.

The forecast had called for rain on one particular spring day two years ago. 100 percent chance of precipitation, it had promised, starting in the night and continuing all day long. Sounded good to me.

So I’d spent the previous day planting. And I’d kept my calendar clear for that particular spring day, planning to do lazy rainy-day things while nature watered my gardens.

I’d have to get up and take care of a few outdoor chores in the early morning, but planned to go right back to bed after that. I’d just closed a particularly exhausting show, and had another one coming up. Sleep sounded like a good idea.

But it wasn’t raining when I awoke that morning. And it hadn’t rained. The sky was dark, but all was dry. I went back to bed anyway.

Before long my cell phone rang. I shrugged it off and rolled over. Then the land line rang. It seemed something was urgent. So I answered it.

My sister had died that morning. There had been no warning. There were no details. She was only 51.

I hung up the phone and sat with the loss. My father had died a few years earlier. And my mother, just a few years before that. Several close friends had also recently died, one after the other, in rapid succession.

There was nothing I could do. There was nothing anyone could do. So I got up.

A rainy day would’ve seemed fitting in the wake of the news I’d just received. But this day remained dry. Dry and dark, with heavy but obstinate clouds looming overhead.

I made coffee and then decided to take a walk in the woods and check on the goats. Seven out of 10 were busily browsing. But three were nowhere to be seen.

Still in my pajamas and clutching my coffee cup, I trudged through the brambles in search of the missing ones. When I spotted the three together in the distance, I almost turned back to the house. But then I noticed they were grazing just outside the fence.

They were munching on some blackberries and didn’t seem to be going anywhere. So I let them be for the moment and traced the periphery of their fence until I discovered the breach which had allowed them to escape.

A tree had shattered in the night. Though there’d been no rain, there had been lots of wind. The upper half of the tree had fallen across the fence and accordioned the four feet of woven wire flat onto the ground. Undoubtedly, the intrepid three had then used the tree as a bridge to the other side.

There was no use in chasing them until the fence was repaired, so I headed back to the house to put on real clothes. Substantial shoes.

There were no messages on either phone.

I dragged out the old chainsaw which hadn't been used in well over a year; and was surprised when it readily started.

Back in the woods, I cut up the tree and removed it from the still-flattened fence. Then I grabbed a bucket of goat treats and headed into the wild to find the three escapees.

They were still working on those blackberries, right where I’d left them. But a few shakes of the bucket easily enticed them to follow me back to the fallen fence. When I stepped over, they immediately followed and were soon enjoying their reward for coming home.

Meanwhile, I stretched the fence back to its former height and re-attached it to the posts from which it had been ripped. Not exactly as good as new. But good enough to get by.

When I was finished, I turned and saw one of the goats wandering around with the treat bucket wedged over her head. She would stumble into a boulder or a tree, stop for a few seconds, and blindly stumble forth again. I removed the bucket and left her blinking out her confusion as I walked back to the house – a still-smoking chainsaw in one hand and the empty bucket in the other.

No rain. No messages.

I took a shower, checked for ticks, changed clothes, and cooked a few eggs for a late breakfast. Still no news. I sat at the window with another cup of coffee – waiting for rain. Waiting for answers.

I checked the forecast again – 100 percent chance of precipitation, it still promised. But the sullen sky begged to differ. So I hauled out the hoses and watered my garden.

And the rain never came.

Derrick Ivey is an actor, director, designer, and gentleman farmer who lives in Chatham County.

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