Smells like a hayloft

I live in Texas. It’s always hot in the summer. It’s always hot and dry.

This year it’s been ridiculous. The other day I walked out into my front yard to circle around and take my car to work. A smell immediately hit me. You know how a smell can take you back decades, conjure up a memory so strong and still so mysterious you have to stand there, head hung, eyes closed, straining to relax enough so that the memory can flood back and you can figure out what it was. I was successful. It was a memory from my childhood, brought back by the odor of my front yard.

My yard smelled like a hayloft. The dead desiccated lawn, brown and brittle, smelled exactly like hay.

So this morning, I woke, and something was odd. I had to work today, but because it was Saturday I was in no serious hurry to get down there. I tossed and turned trying to figure out what was different, trying to catch at some torn cobwebby remnants of dreams as a possible clue as to what was going on.

Candy was already up. She shouted out from the front door, “Bill, guess what, it’s raining.”

I couldn’t believe it. It has been so long, I didn’t think it would ever rain again. Years ago, when a long drought broke, I walked out into it. I wrote:

 The temperature dropped twenty degrees in minutes, and a great howling wind picked up. The rain blew sideways in great clouds, picking up standing water from the ground. Fast flashes of lightning like a strobe light; so close the thunder came on immediately, like giant timbers snapped by a monster hand. A loud clicking started up and I saw pea-sized hail dancing around in the water.

The wind slowed a bit, the hail stopped and it was too much for me to resist. …I strode out quickly into the downpour. I could have picked up a rain suit or even an umbrella but I decided to go ahead and get wet.

It felt wonderful. I had to stop walking and wipe off my … glasses every now and then, but other than that the rain was comfortable and cool – a great change. The grass out back was soaking the stuff up as fast as it fell – the giant cracks in the clay softening, the dead grass coming loose, the footing flexible and yielding but not yet muddy.

—- from September 12, 2000

A week ago I thought about walking out into the rain when the drought broke, but today I decided to sleep in a bit after all. By the time I dragged myself up, made coffee and oatmeal, dressed, and walked to my car it was over. The yard didn’t smell like a hayloft – it smelt like seaweed.

It’s not over; tomorrow it will be back up over the century mark. It’s not the end, but maybe the beginning of the end.

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