Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rain, rain, go away? #phenology

Another rainy, lazy day has floated some childhood and teenage memories to the surface of my thoughts. From boyhood, I remember the nursery rhyme:
"It's raining; it's pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head,
And he couldn't get up in the morning."
Years later, one of the high points of my teen-age years was attending a Peter, Paul and Mary concert. Mary's soft, clear voice lends just the right amount of youthful wistfulness to their version of the song.

chickadee in rain
chickadee in rain
Photo by J. Harrington

The rain doesn't seem to trouble the goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches or others who fly through the drops to arrive at the feeder. (Do you ever wonder how birds can see to fly through the rain? Someone anticipated that question and provided an answer.) A small flock of five turkey hens just pecked their way down from the hillside and up to the house, so they're out and about in the rain. Hummingbirds are still around, although I noticed they, like the squirrels, usually wait for the rain to stop before venturing to the feeders.

August 23, 2015 start of color
August 23, 2015 start of color
Photo by J. Harrington

We've resisted an urge to turn the heat on, despite mid-day temperatures stuck in the low 60's. More signs of seasonal transition. It's just two weeks until Labor Day weekend. By that time, don't be surprised if we start to see splashes of red and gold in our North Country. Soup is on the menu for tonight's dinner. We'll likely finish off what's left of the loaves of sourdough bread I baked a couple of days ago. The renewed starter worked nicely so baking will now be worked back into the weekly routine for the next nine or 10 months. Would that my recuperative powers were as strong as the starter's, but then it's not as old as I am.

Rain


By Francis Ponge
Translated by Joshua Corey and Jean-Luc Garneau


The rain, in the backyard where I watch it fall, comes down at different 
rates. In the center a fine discontinuous curtain — or network — falls implacably and yet gently in drops that are probably quite light; a strengthless sempiternal precipitation, an intense fraction of the atmosphere at its purest. A little distance from the walls to the right and left plunk heavier drops, one by one. Here they seem about the size of grains of wheat, the size of a pea, while elsewhere they are big as marbles. Along gutters and window frames the rain runs horizontally, while depending from the same obstacles it hangs like individually wrapped candies. Along the entire surface of a little zinc roof under my eyes it trickles in a very thin sheet, a moiré pattern formed by the varying currents created by the imperceptible bumps and undulations of the surface. From the gutter it flows with the restraint of a shallow creek until it tumbles out into a perfectly vertical net, rather imperfectly braided, all the way to the ground where it breaks and sparkles into brilliant needles.

Each of its forms has its particular allure and corresponds to a particular patter. Together they share the intensity of a complex mechanism 
as precise as it is dangerous, like a steam-powered clock whose spring is wound by the force of the precipitation.

The ringing on the ground of the vertical trickles, the glug-glug of the gutters, the miniscule strikes of the gong multiply and resonate all at once in a concert without monotony, and not without a certain delicacy.

Once the spring unwinds itself certain wheels go on turning for a while, more and more slowly, until the whole mechanism comes to a stop. It all vanishes with the sun: when it finally reappears, the brilliant apparatus evaporates. It has rained.
Translated from the French


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