Rain & the Promise of Spring

They predicted snow, but it’s been raining for a couple of days now. Slow, steady rain that soaks into the ground and makes the river sing. Here in the Southwest, this moisture at this particular time of the year promises us a vivid season of flowering in just a couple of months, full of the flagrant sensuality and brazen provocation New Mexico  springs are known for. Golden orange Mexican Poppies, pink Penstemon, sunny Senecio, creamy Candytuft, purple Blisswort and baby blue Spiderworts will all unfurl in a wild flurry of flowering. Even now, the tiny green leaves of Dock and Mustard and Fillaree poke their long fingers out of ever sheltered corner and tease me with preview of what’s coming.

Yes, we likely still have at least one or two cold months ahead of us here in the mountains but spring looms large in my imagination just now. The full flowering explosion won’t happen until May but I’m already planning my harvesting trips to the desert for Poppies, Larrea and Wild Oats, to the higher mountains for Elderflowers, Wild Roses and Strawberries and to nearby villages for Arizona Cypress, Elm fruit and Desert Willow. It actually does take a lot of planning to figure out exactly when the Desert Willow is going to flower near Silver City or the Poppies will be in bloom in Cliff or the Elderflowers on the mountain. Every year I make my many pilgrimages to my favorite harvesting spots and try to remember to write down the date and state of blooming/growing/thriving. It’s tricky because I only have time to make these trips once in most cases and sometimes I just miss what I was aiming for by a few days. Thankfully, most of what I harvest and use grows right here in the Canyon and the gathering trips are supplemental or for special plants. That doesn’t keep me from getting excited though. Oh no, I’m already marking the calendar, checking my stores of dried herbs and tinctures, arranging my baskets and field bag. I can’t help it, I’m totally plant obsessed!

So the rain makes me smile even when I get soaked just running from den to kitchen, or I slip in the mud while walking the puddled trails in the dark, or we’re low on solar power due to days of cloud cover. Water is the blood of the Southwest, and our rivers are the veins that supply life to otherwise dry lands. The animals certainly seem happy, as the ducks continue floating down the current in the rain and tiny seed eating birds chirp their way through morning showers. The elk forage in the mist and mountain lion screams during a break in the weather. Rhiannon gathers creasy greens from the garden and I kneel to touch the first unfolding leaves of a tiny Pennyroyal plant. Life is good. Even if the river rises under the weight of the storm and we have to hike across a flooded canyon and up the mountain to get to the village for supplies, life is very good indeed.

5 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jan 24, 2009

    The rhythm of the seasons speaks powerfully to me. On my island home in the Pacific Northwest I would (am! –even though I’m no longer there!) be anticipating the first new leaves. Indian Plum is the first to leaf in our former forest, and I enjoy the tangy cucumber taste of those new leaves. I delighted in making my own version of the Indian yogurt dip “raita”, using Indian plum leaves instead of cucumber (which is desperately out of season most of the year where I lived). I would still be gratefully harvesting kale from my garden, and a new burst of arugula, which has sown itself. Calendula might even still be blooming sporadically. And I would be eager for first glimpses of my friend California Poppy–but actually poppy is not likely to extend its lacy silver green self for a few more months. Still! I love this velvety and flame petaled, joyful, gracious, heart-of-my-nature herb!

    I would consider the Black Cottonwoods in the neighborhood, and remind myself to mark the calendar for checking for those sticky aromatic buds that I use to make a lovely “balm of Gilead” for massaging my husband and soothing sore muscles. I would remind myself to begin checking in mid-Feb., though it would actually be in early March that I gathered them.

    Here in my new terrain of the Wallowa valley in N. E. Oregon, I could feel (and do sometimes) pretty ungrounded regarding my plant and tree friends and the rhythm of the seasons. After all, we have a long winter here–with snow and ice and heavy frost! I have a lot to learn and experience here, but I take heart in knowing that Black Cottonwoods are abundant in this part of the valley, and I can expect to find Stinging Nettle in the spring (when it finally arrives!), and Dandelion manages to thrust its toothy-leafed vigorous self through our lawn, despite who knows how many rounds of chemicals the previous owner lavished on this area, and despite the weeks of snow we had earlier. I anticipate the leafing and flowering at some point of the Wild Rose that rambles uncared for at the side of the house, pondering its lessons of vigorous thorns on slender jumbled shoots that this plant reveals to me. The plant has been hacked at in the past, and then let go to grow as it willed. I sit with the plant, wondering best how to support its well-being in the coming months. Right now, I offer it Reiki, song, and my good wishes and curiosity. Who are you, sleeping one?

    Thank you for your post, Kiva. You continue to inspire me and to deepen my awareness and knowledge.

    ~Jane

  2. Kristen
    Jan 24, 2009

    Up here, farther north and higher up (8,000 feet in the Rockies), we’ve also had rain, turning the foot of snow that had formed a hard crust, into a slushy, slippery mess. Until this storm, I had nice paths carved from the house to the barn, from the barn to the road, from the road to the house, from the house to the tipi, from the house to the compost, well packed and easily walked even in regular shoes. Now I’m falling into the snow with every step.

    This isn’t usual for this time of year– last year at this time we had 3 feet of snow and bitter, bitter cold…. Right now, though, my driveway looks like spring — it’s a river of mud, with odd canyons carved into the ruts where our wheels go…

    A few weeks ago, I went up to 10,000 feet on snowshoes to stay at a friend’s wilderness retreat… on some southern banks over the creek there was bare ground and even though it was deepest winter, with no day in a month over 32 degrees, I was amazed to see little green things– mosses and cresses and whatsits, little bundles of chlorophyll in the middle of all that white.

    It’s a nice time of year!!

  3. Irene
    Jan 25, 2009

    Thank you Kiva. I share your excitement in the promise of revisiting harvest locales whether they be cliff, desert or nearby villages. It’s never too early to plan and relish in the quickening of excitement. This emotion very soon leads to manifested blooms of joy and celebration. And being plant obsessed is okay with me!

    In the Northeast, Prospect Park of urban Brooklyn, New York pulses underneath icy patches and damp earth feel of growth and germination. White pine stands still and peaceful beneath glimmering sun. My dogs lick the soil. The grandfather beech tree cradled by boulders hovers just at the end of the foot of the hill but on enough of an incline that makes one wonder how its enormity could stand tall and not fall. The elephantine roots dive and spread into the soil and this could be all strength he needs. Bulbs gather around beech with single blades peeking up and knowing that beech root and soil are secure for them to grow. My dogs and I slowly descending the tiny hill and playfully skate the iced over concrete path leading back into the rotunda of Grand Army Plaza. Witchhazel tree buds fallen but still lovely pistils beckon me to stop and pause before I reenter my studio apartment. Winter still looms however, the sunlight stays up later and later each day.

  4. Dave
    Jan 29, 2009

    How wonderful it is to know the world the way you do. Such a spiritual enterprise.

  5. Renee
    Feb 5, 2009

    Wow, I would love to know my surroundings the way you know yours. I have been moved from place to place to place my entire life never really having a permanent home. The only place that’s been permanent in my life is my father’s house which was not always present due to my parents being divorced and my father’s and I’s severely strained relationship.

    Last year I lived in a residence that had a huge side yard and I quickly discovered a love of gardening. Then in late fall/early winter my mom (who I reside with) announced we were once again moving. I had never known what made my Dad’s place always feel like ‘home’ even though I was never able to spend much time there.

    When I moved into my new residence some 45 minutes away from my old one I realized there is no side yard, no yard period. Just a slab of concrete out back that counts as a back porch. I can’t garden in the ground I have to rely on container gardening. But this observation made me realize what it was about my Dad’s place that made it feel like home and why (even though I had only lived there a year) my old residence felt like home: I had connected with the land and the plants that inhabit it.

    I long very much for this connection again. And I agree with you that it makes all the difference in the world to have it. As Spring draws nearer I try to find ways to connect with the land of my new home. I have noticed a few squirrels live in a nearby tree and there are several birds around. I’m hoping that even though I live more in the city than I used to that I can get that connection back.

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