Gardening the Rain

The clouds on Tuesday evening were divided over me, gray to the north, then a sharp line, then darker to the south, with rain trailing behind the sharpness in the sky like smoke from the edge of a grassfire. In the earth, between the green of grass and the darkness of dirt, I was making my own line, but its slow progression was followed neither by rain nor by smoke, only by upended clods of soil. Between earth and sky, I was doubly divided, by the sharp-lined clouds and by the sharp-lined soil, and the wind troubled this divided place, drove the clouds steadily above and the dry dirt in little gusts below, joining them to each other across a vast chasm of air.

The rain fell suddenly, the rolling line in the clouds passing over and beyond me, the air full with the sound of rushing droplets, rushing in wind-driven waves, as if the sea had come and submerged me, though I was motionless, as if the clouds had become a vast and encompassing ocean. The darkness of the storm submerged me also, and I seemed to be working in the twilight of an ocean floor, no longer between places, but beneath all places, the lowermost of things, the depths where primordial creatures are born, the darkness over which there is only the sound of hovering wings.

The dry, brown earth on my spade became moistly and darkly edged. The channel through the soil filled to its sudden end, a river against its dam. With every spadeful, the water surged forward, a little further, in frantic bursts, convulsively. The mud clung to the blade. The channel washed over my feet. The darkness and the water and the wet earth all but erased the line from sight, and my digging became wholly tactile, the smooth curve of the channel, the abrupt hardness at its end, the steel under my foot, the water and earth filling my sandals and covering my legs. The division of the clouds had passed and hidden the division of the earth from me also, but I clung to the divided soil by the feel of caked mud and by the smell of wet grass and by the taste of sweat mingled with rain.

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