Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Rain

The rain has departed us for good. I know because the lumbering gardeners are back, terrorizing us with their leaf blowers and noise makers I can't even name.

We have had a few thunder storms, it sounds strange even as I write it. Rain? Here in Southern California? Never!  Well, we tend to get sprinkles here and there, which makes it more likely that we get rainbows than rain because the sun will quickly reappear after those brief events.  But this week thanks to some tropical hurricane that never materialized but brought in a lot of moisture, we got to experience some truly decent summer storms, lightening, thunder and rain!

They say in the news that the storm broke all sorts of records of 15 years, maybe longer. All I can say is it broke the dry spell of dust, heat and threat of engulfing fires like we had in 2007.  It all started on Saturday morning, when I woke to the sound of rolling thunders (I never get tired of saying that). At first I thought it was a military chopper, which has been frequenting our neighborhood at all hours of the day lately.

But no. It was a gentle, rolling roar, powerful yet a sound of nature. Nothing mechanic about it. The sky was too dark and gray for summer mornings, even at six am. Then lightening flashed, white with a tinge of purple, far away still, but its light shot across the sky above my neighbor's roof.  Still groggy, I stayed in bed to watch, and to smell the earthy perfume of the rain coming through my window.

It has been too long. So many prayers and jokes about rain, thoughts of thunderstorms, such a long wait. The kind that makes you want to run out and embrace its arrival, reach out with your tongue and taste its goodness.

No. I take my time, making deep inhales slowly but softly. There is no reason to hurry. Just me and nature, a long awaited reunion, but a happy one. The thunder rolls in from a world away, the power of its drums sweeping through the air, making wind through palm fond and sugar gum branches. Our grayish red tile look parched, in anxious wait of that first moisturizing drop, turning its red surface dark.

Running downstairs, I push open the patio door to peer outside. The wind is pregnant with rain, warm. A few neighbors are doing the same thing as me, poking their heads out of windows and doors, frowning at the sky and smiling to each other.

"I hope you don't have anywhere important to go today?"

"Not really. Things that can be cancelled if the rain gets rough."

"The road will be pretty nasty."

"But we need it. It will be good for the drought."

"Yeah, I think I will move my potted plants, so you know, they'd get some free water."

"Me too."

"Happy Saturday!"

The chattering stopped as the first drops pattered down, fat round marks on the pale concrete of our patios. One, two, three, then someone threw away the rhythms but made a symphony out of the chaos of all the drops arriving together.  Then those round spots blur into a shimmering gloss, coating the tops of roof tiles, leaves, the west side of the palm tree, and the top of arch ways.

There was nothing to do but listen, and to enjoy the sound of the first summer rain. Perhaps it was an unusual turn of the weather, perhaps it is caused by heightened global warming, or the melting of glaciers. But the moment didn't ring danger, danger, it rang tiny feet pattering about wet puddles, it rang thirsty crops raising their necks to drink in the goodness, it rang "free water" for plants and wet road for hurried drivers.  The threat of climate apocalypse fade away for a moment, perhaps longer. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Ma summons me to dinner, because she doesn't want to eat alone. I can relate, the pressing presence of a sweaty hot crowd in the city in which we grew up does not exactly screams love and comfort, yet there are times when we miss our open door neighborhood, of hearing each others' shouts across the courtyard during dinner hours, of nothing but the approaching footsteps announcing an impromptu visitor, daily.

We make a pretty spread onto Ma's table, grilled steak, pan fried fish, a leafy bowl of salad, bell pepper stir fry and white rice. Drink options contain soy milk, water, wine, and coffee. Ma's finally making a transition into liking western meals, while you do still see and taste marks of tradition in the round shape of rice bowls, the slim points of chopsticks, and the smell of soy perfuming the air.

A magpie visits her garden while we sit at the table, singing as we watch her through the large kitchen window. Twilight spilled from the magpie to our shoulders, silvery gray with a touch of gold, like fingers laced between morning and evening, between night and day, sunlight and darkness.

She dances from the arch of the garden gate to the tree standing to its left, or the roof tiles to its right, her tails bobbing all the time, drumming to the beat of her song. I look her up online, based on a picture and a vague notion of her name, and found the Chinese name for her species -- 喜鹊。

Joy Finch.

Or Bird of Happiness.  She symbolizes good fortune, love and marriage.  On July 7, legend has it that thousands of them will gather across the Milky Way to form a bridge so the two lovers separated by this impossible silver river of rage from the Queen Mother of All Stars (who turned them both into stars located on opposite sides of the Milky Way when she discovered their forbidden love) could meet on the bridge once a year.

But our girl is alone tonight. Something agitates her dance steps, her silky song notes. She hops and dashes, soars and dives, now and then, here and there, searching and resting, constant then no more. We speculate on her motive.

She is building a house, says Ma.
She is looking for a girlfriend, and it's a HE, says the boy.
She is enjoying the night.


Light recedes as we lose ourselves in this mystery, on a first evening of the summer, two years after Father's passing. Heat hasn't stolen into the night cools, and moon rose to a sliver of crescent at the edge of the sky. Ma clears the table while I wash dishes, thinking how things haven't been easy and how nice it is to sit in the evening light watching a magpie dance, together. Conversation can be difficult but the light all around us is pure and simple. The roads to mothers' rage and disappointments seem long and arduous, chasm like and defies crossing but for the God who sends his magpies for the rescue.

Outside the sky sheds its high blue sharpness of the day and turns velvety and soft.  The romance between those laced fingers earlier fades with the twilight, as evening pushes forward to take over the land, the tree, the sky, the magpie and our windows. We turn on the light, though we cannot see out into the world, watching our shadows thrown against the glass, moving like puppets across a dim and empty stage.


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