Thursday was a special day. When I stepped outside for my habitual morning tour of the garden, a fine rain had begun to fall. It had a promising feel to it. The vegetables would not need watering, but I continued my short pilgrimage anyway. I had not stood in the rain yet this summer.
It was a special day for additional reasons. Two Golden Cherry tomatoes had started to show a yellow blush. The first ripe tomato is an important event. Spinach, lettuce and zucchini you can decide to pick whenever and whatever size you want. At first you harvest with alacrity, but distraction increases as other vegetables come along. Hidden zucchinis grow monstrous.
In contrast, tomatoes swell on the vine for weeks, tantalizing but unripe. Then one day the summer sun turns their colour. You might leave them alone another day or so to brighten up, but there is no arbitrariness about a tomato’s readiness. They have taken 68 days from transplanting on June 2, not much longer than the seed packet predicted (64 days). I was dismayed at the frailty of the transplants, but it has not delayed their maturity to much. I only regret not having prepared the garden and transplanted them a week earlier. Allowing leeway, the first Bonny Best tomatoes should ripen about Aug. 22 and Black Prince Sept. 4.
I love how each nasturtium leaf (top) collects a pearl of water, like a magic bowl. It reminds me of lady’s mantle; the photo at left was taken in my mother’s garden in 2005, the plant descended from one I introduced as a teenager more than 30 years ago. Few plants are so enchanting as Alchemilla mollis. I hope for a time when I can be certain enough of our home here or elsewhere to devote more effort to perennials.
I stood soaking in the sounds. Little brown crickets buzzed in the straw, celebrating moisture. In the sonorous patter of droplets on big zucchini leaves, I could almost imagine the sound of rain in the woods at Lake Fletcher. I had only to close my eyes. Beyond the garden at the end of the lawn, countless small heads of Queen-Anne’s-lace circled in parallax like 200 million galaxies.
Fascination led me toward the motionless white pines beyond the fence. I never see them so still. I tried to hear the rain in their branches, but they were silent. I opened the gate and wandered into their deep shade. Not a drop of moisture penetrated the soft canopy. How can such fine needles catch all the rain? This is a mystery. In case I ever have to live under the sky, here is a dry bed. I already know there is no softer, sweeter mattress than a thick layer of white pine needles.
Later the precipitation increased. Soon the rain barrel would be full. I moved several weary houseplants onto the deck for a spa day. Then I opened my office window to sit writing with excited bird voices and the sigh of a thirsty world.