Times of Refreshment, With Quacks of Joy

The specter of drought is always present in Texas, even when we’re having plenty of rain. During those rare times when it rains to the point of inconvenience, and we comment on it, we’re always quick to add, “Not that I’m complaining!” A rural Texan being swept off in a torrent of floodwaters would probably feel compelled to say, “Well, we did need the rain.”

Lately we’ve been dealing with not just the specter but the reality of drought. Even the oak trees, stalwart and hardy, are showing signs of stress. There’s not much grass for the horses or cattle, and the big stock pond, which Greg filled with catfish and perch a few months back, has gotten low.

Weather is cyclical, but not in the sense of things repeating themselves in strict and tidy patterns. Averages are just averages, not some sort of natural law, and things deviate farther and more frequently from the expected norm than we’d like. When Greg was a boy that big stock tank never went dry; now it frequently does. It’s sad to see the water receding from dry banks and getting dark and scummy in the low center before vanishing altogether in a damp bit of cracked black clay.

This morning I woke at 4:30 to let the dogs out. I stood a moment with the front door open, wondering what that sound was. When a drought goes on long enough you actually forget the sound of rain.

We had no social plans for Memorial Day, no cookouts to be rained out. I had knitting projects and plenty of yarn; Greg had a number of jobs around the place that could be accomplished just as well in rainy weather. His big outbuilding has become a catchall for tools, horse tack, gardening supplies, random trash, and cats. With a fresh breeze and plenty of animals for company, he knocked out some repair projects and tidied up. It’s now possible to reach the feed bin without first performing a contortionist’s act around the four-wheeler.

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And we like for feed to be easy to reach.

I decided I’d had enough of knitting directly from twisty yarn skeins and dealing with the resulting tangles. I looked online, found instructions for how to make a center-pull yarn ball, and got to it. One of the skeins was already pretty messed up; untangling it took a lot longer than getting it into ball form. Well, that’s a lesson for next time: wind the yarn right away. We don’t start out knowing everything in any discipline. We learn as we go.

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Mmm, yes. Quite.

I, too, had plenty of animal company. Dogs and cats contribute little of a positive nature to the process of winding yarn, but they are willing and enthusiastic participants. Ginny the Chihuahua stayed especially close. Rain worries her; she likes to be snug against a person, preferably under a blanket, during storms. She would have liked it if I had settled down on the sofa with my knitting, but I had to get my yarn in shape first. I put two chairs back to back, spread out the tangled yarn on the dining table, worked some out, wound some it around the chairs, stopped to untangle again, and wound some more. Wanting to be as near me as possible, Ginny sat on one of the chairs. Later, when Daniel came home, he saw the whole set-up from across the room and thought for a moment that I was lashing Ginny to the chair like a little prisoner.

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From that angle, an easy mistake.

I worked with the windows open, and what sounded at first like quacks of delight coming from the direction of the creek turned out to be exactly that. The ducks were glad of the rain too. They quacked steadily for hours. Once I had my yarn taken care of I stood outside on the back porch a while and just listened.

Today is Memorial Day. The whole idea behind memorial, behind memory, is calling to mind things that aren’t happening anymore, things that ought to be remembered. Like the weather, life has its cycles: loss and renewal, dearth and plenty, sacrifice and reward. And as with weather, the patterns aren’t predictable or tidy. Sometimes the one doing the sacrificing doesn’t get to reap the reward. Sometimes your allotted days don’t allow you to hear the dissonance resolved or to see the purpose and beauty emerge in a design that looks like chaos. Hope is what bridges the gap—the hope that God is good and will make all things right, in this life or in the life to come.

The young nation of Israel that wandered through the wilderness in the book of Exodus gets a lot of flack from modern churchgoers, but I wonder which of us in the same circumstances would do better or as well. They didn’t know how the story would end; the God of Abraham was still largely an unknown quantity to them. They had a promise and the testimony of some compelling miracles, yes, but the future was still the future, not an accomplished fact. God allowed them to run out of water, to experience genuine privation, to have real cause for fear and doubt. If he hadn’t, they’d have had no opportunity to demonstrate faith.

Faith is a challenge by definition. It means hanging in there on the strength of a promise, often when everything around you looks like a reason to give up. I know a lot of people right now who are clinging to faith and longing for times of refreshment. I pray that those times will come, and soon, for all of us.

The rain came down steadily for most of the day, and more is expected for the rest of the week. Greg drove by the stock tank and said it’s looking good. He may get to go fishing in October after all.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

~Genesis 8:22

 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.

~Isaiah 45:8

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