Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Too Much / Not Enough

I have an interesting relationship with rain.

Growing up a farmer's daughter, one learns about rain in terms of its absolute inability to ever be just right. It's the proverbial bowl of porridge and all the farmers of the great Midwest I hail from are like a hive-mind Goldilocks, never quite satisfied.

There is always too much rain or there is not enough. There is no middle ground. In Illinois, we inevitably lean towards the latter. There have been summers, though, where rain fell like someone had overturned buckets through the hottest months, when we were begging for it to be dry, to let the corn and beans dry out like they're supposed to.

There have been years where those saggy yellow-brown cornstalks wilting under the weight of their overburdened ears, water counting the time in drips off their husks, are the saddest thing I can imagine. There have been years with over dried tiny little stalks with hardly any ears between them all but catching fire after so many weeks with no rain at all. Fields of soybeans with huge empty patches where floodwater collected, fields of beans with cracks of dry dust where no water has collected at all.

Ever have a day where you're in and out of the rain so much your hair never actually dries?
Today is that day for me. I've had wet hair since 6:30 AM this morning when I took my shower.
It's... It's just magical.
As such, I don't particularly like rain. I did my fair share of puddle-jumping as a kid, but rain to me continues to be too much or not enough. It's essentially just how I'm wired to look at it. There's this burst of joy when it starts, this mental now it's raining optimism, but it goes away pretty quickly, and leaves behind a ground that is too soggy or too cracked and dry.

The idea of 'too much' seems somewhat laughable at this point, when so much of the country is essentially bone-dry, when the corn harvests suffered from one of the worst droughts in quite some time.

I call home and hear that there is not enough rain, and it's not a farmer's affectation, it's true; there just hasn't been enough. All year. Longer than that, really.

Upstate South Carolina has been an interesting adjustment, the last couple of years.

Here, we talk about severe droughts while rain falls, slow and steady, all day long. The amount of rain that isn't enough here would be almost too much back in Illinois.

For example, it's been raining since late Sunday basically nonstop. Oh, sometimes it quits for an hour or two, but inevitably it starts right back up again. It's not like it's really pouring, so much as heaven is just spitting on us with incredible consistency.

"It's good to see the rain," I overheard one of our visitors at the museum say today. "But it's still just so dry. I wish it'd rain a little harder so we could get enough."

I look outside at the soggy ground and dripping trees and shrug. Indy hates his bathroom breaks when it's raining like this; apparently he doesn't much enjoy getting his delicate doggy paws wet. He has to be pulled by the leash into the yard, and then goes as fast as he can manage before trying to trot right back into the house, giving me the same sad face he gives me every time he has to go into his crate as we leave.

Often when I'm asked what the news from Illinois is, I'll answer in terms of the dryness of the ground, only realizing a little belatedly that the people asking aren't really interested in what my dad's fields are doing right now. There's a joke in an episode of Family Guy that I love; Stewie (the talking baby) is sitting at a diner somewhere in Nebraska, trying to start up a conversation with some locals. He tries talking about sports, to be met with noncomittal grunts. He asks about something else that elicits essentially no response.

Then he asks about corn, and all the guys sitting around him smile and reply, "Oh, corn! There's always something new with corn!" and begin talking over each other in their sudden enthusiasm to tell Stewie all about it.

That was essentially my childhood in a nutshell, only you could replace corn with beans or the weather and get much the same response.

Ask a farmer about rain sometime.

I will bet you, whoever you are, five dollars here and now that he or she will answer in terms of too much or not enough.

(Note: I will not actually bet you five real dollars. But go ahead and ask anyway.)

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