I laid awake all night and listened to the rain. I listened as the dry raspy voice of the parched ground was stilled under a steady gentle shower. I listened as the wind gently caressed the earth, drawing away the stored heat of the sun's furnace. I listened as the lightning flashed and demanded in a deep, booming voice that the soil bring forth life again. I listened as the world became right again.
This was the radar view as I settled in last night, the whole area of middle Kansas on the brink of a break in the drought. The national media has focused here recently, noting that drought has struck the hardest in areas of Kansas and Iowa, calling it "extreme" or "exceptional" drought here in this band of Flint Hills that I've chosen to garden. Yesterday's newspaper, as always, grimly listed the tally; 14.21 inches of rain so far in 2012, 11.51 inches less than normal. I was afraid, seeing this radar picture, knowing that I'd seen it several times before in this summer, the promised storms breaking on the shores of the western Flint Hills and leaving us yet dry. For an hour more I wondered, until the first gentle drops kissed the skylights, increasing in tempo until my anxiety eased at last.
My rain vigils are dependent both on modern technology and on ancient instincts. I'm addicted to an Iphone app called MyRadar, which allows me to see the rainstorms coming at the touch of a button, direction and severity on full display. I don't deal in rain chances. Twenty percent or sixty percent predictions mean nothing in the mid-continent unless you actually see and feel the thunderheads build. My inborn and farm-bred intuition of when the rain will wither or build, and where it will head and how far it will spread, are still far better than the muddled mathematical measures of local meteorologists. I recently have come to suspect that authorities have conspired to change the reference colors on radar in the same way they manipulate the Homeland Security threat level. Storms with orange and red pass over us with barely a dribble where in the past they meant deluges and discussions of cubits. Forget green and blue, those colors now leave us frustrated and weary. At the end of any actual rain that reaches the ground, I use simple gauges to tell me if we were teased or fulfilled, but my first knowledge of the volume bestowed is always from a small depression in the blacktop right off of my garage pad. Filled to overflowing is more than 3/4th's of an inch. Barely damp is less than a 10th. My hopes and dreams are raised or dashed with my first morning sight of that puddle.
I laid awake all night and listened to the rain. The patter of the rain against the window near my left ear, and the rhythmic breathing and occasional snores of Mrs. ProfessorRoush in my right ear, calmed me and rested me far better than sleep. The rain continues now as I rise, with chances for more rain in each of the next three days, God-willing. But for now, the puddle overflows and I and the prairie earth are renewed.