The Liminal Places

Sitting in my writing hut, I raptly listen to splatters of rain on the cabin roof. It is curious to me (as I mull the continuing exigencies of our chosen rural lifestyle) that since my last post, it has not rained, not one drop. This was over a month ago. The ground gapes in wide cracks; the grass has turned brown for the most part, and we fear for our water well’s unknown capacity. The driller assured us it was a “good well,” being artesian, but aquifers can and do run dry. The gift of water—like those of health and peace—demands a deep period of grateful contemplation and attention. Eyes wide open.

Normally not a desert, our northwestern edge of the Black Hills usually remains greenish through the fall months. Even past an early snowfall, our gardens and trees have generally continued to flourish. Not so the more sensitive species, like basil and the leaves of squash however. . . But while my husband attends the gardens’ needs, I dutifully perform my watering tasks and keep to schedule: the orchard trees, the fruiting bushes, the herbs. We notice the diminished size of several varieties of vegetables this summer—tomatoes, eggplant and ears of corn—but they taste particularly sweet, as though having struck a bargain in lieu of weight.

The apples may or may not have time to fill out, and this would be disappointing, as more hang from the branches than in previous years. Fingers crossed, I continue to water. “Doesn’t matter; carry on,” I hear from my observer. Remember The Observer? The one you may have read about in Psychology 101? I just completed a further review of a work-in-progress, examining our lifestyle choices, paired with memoir, and in it I make brief mention of this observing psychological construct. Such is the thirteen-year-old me who has the advantage and distinction (now) of having watched my so-called growing-up. Not quite having reached the cusp of crone-dom, having earned “elder” status (if ever I do), this in-between state I occupy at present seems to complement my thirteen-year-old self: not a child, nor yet a young woman. Thirteen was—is, a between place, a liminal age. Like mine today, at sixty-eight. One of my own constructs, Things happen in the liminal places.

How this pertains to an intermittent rain interrupting a drought is suspect, yet I seek the parallel. (Why else has the notion occurred to me?) Fractals and patterns erupt continually during these strange days. . . Anyhow, as the rain fell yesterday (and into this day) I opened windows to its strains and heard the barrel filling from the roof gutter run-off. I heard it as laughter—all that gurgling and splashing, a spectacular giggling symphony to joy. Definitely an ode.

My observer, I have decided, wants to play with me, employing the skills I’ve managed to learn, through love of writing and playing music, in order to do this: Just. Play. This morning I read in my news feed that nostalgia is actually good for us—that reviewing one’s difficult, and/or wistful parts leads to a more fulfilling life. The rain falls, to arrive like the bright visit of a thirteen-year-old self, come to visit, bringing forgotten joy.

The Smell of Rain

St. John’s Wort and Motherwort in bloom.

Our yellow Lab behaved strangely most of yesterday, acting mopey and dull. We thought he merely missed the stimulation—and overflowing love—of our grandchildren during their first visit in twenty-one months (due to the pandemic). Maybe. But, when the heavy rain began, he shot up, clamored to go outside where he ran about like a fool, then he came back in and resumed his happy-go-lucky Lab nature. Thank the gods of weather.

Whether pre-storm air contains mass quantities of positive ions, (some say these can trigger migraine, and I can attest), flipping to the better (for us) negative ions during the downpour—or not—it certainly appears that way. I welcome any source of healthful well-being I can snatch, from the dizzying merry-go-round we’ve been riding: up and down, up and down, round and round we go. . .

I plead guilty of taking another hiatus from posting, and (forgive the excuse) attribute this neglect to psychological response after having been on guard all these many months (years). Some of us shine during a crisis, then fall apart afterwards. That would be me. Not good. After a period of sweet-talking myself and refocusing my intentions, I believe I’m nearing the “good red road,” a phrase entwined with living in harmony on the Earth and by our better angels, to mix spiritual metaphors. Emerson’s “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own minds,” comes to mind.

Several tribes of Native Americans inhabit Wyoming and borderlands, including Northern Arapaho, Eastern Shoshone; Northern Cheyenne and Crow in Montana, just north of here; Lakota and Dakota to the east. This is a gross generalization, as of course many folks have left the reservations. In yet another instance of recognizing (do we really have to say this?) lives that matter, may we cease to ignore or dismiss the myriad cultural gifts our First Nation neighbors have made to our collective civilization, in obvious appeal. Would that “civil” were better represented today. I love how Potawatomi Citizen and author Robin Wall Kimmerer ignites conversation about indigenous people’s methods of scientific inquiry and practice; of late, their wisdom about fire and how to manage controlled burns is pertinent. Her recent book, Braiding Sweetgrass, burns with such wisdom—knowledge paired with experience, eons of it.

So, it finally rained yesterday evening and during the night, a real gully-washer, and a refreshing topic neighbors can discuss, at last, as my husband just did with the honey-wagon man (who cleans out septic systems—a necessary chore every few years here on the croft). The rain gauge registered .9 inches, nearly an inch. Outstanding! June is normally our wet month, but not so this year. The land suffered six weeks with no rainfall, save short spritzes here and there. I did water the orchard trees, one by one, as usual, and all around the house for fear of fire danger. This moisture, thankfully, may offset some of the drought effects. I’d forgotten how sweet the air smells after a long, hard rain. Ahhhh.


Negative ions or not, the Lab’s response may prove the more righteous one and demonstrates the greater gratitude.