Oprah’s Book Club Selection and the First . . .

. . . rain of the season.

I’d just finished washing up the supper dishes and had settled into the rocker by the window, my favorite chair. Actually, it’s everyone’s favorite chair around here, including the cat Dudley. I picked up my book and wondered for a minute where Dudley was. I chalked his absence up to the weather. He must be out hunting, I thought. It’s been so warm.

For the past week, we’ve been having those ninety-degree Indian Summer days we get in California this time of year. Dry, dusty, still. However, no sooner had I found my place in my book—Freedom—than a slight breeze picked up, and the leaves on the ancient, black walnut that shades the front windows began to rustle. The weather was changing, but I didn’t think too much of it. I just enjoyed the cool air on my neck.

It was true that rain had been predicted up in the high elevations, and when I’d gone up to the garden to pick basil for dinner, I’d seen enormous cumulus clouds forming over the serrated ridges of the Mineral Kings. In the sunset, the clouds had turned all shades from rose to tangerine. Still, it seemed unlikely that rainy weather would reach us.

But that breeze, I thought, looking up from my book, was stronger now. Different.

I had just gotten to the place in Freedom where Walter, an environmental activist on a business trip, has been sent to the local steakhouse by a receptionist at his hotel.

Here are Walter’s thoughts when he is handed the menu:

“Between the horrors of bovine methane, the lakes of watershed-devastating excrement generated by pig and chicken farms, the catastrophic overfishing of the oceans, the ecological nightmare of farmed shrimp and salmon, the antibiotic orgy of dairy-cow factories, and the fuel squandered by the globalization of produce, there was little he could order in good conscience….#@%*,” he said, closing the menu. “I’m going to have the rib-eye.”

Hey Dave, I said. “You’ve got to listen to this.” Since we’d been in exactly the same town on some drive south, probably in the exact same restaurant, and in precisely the same mood, I thought he’d be amused. “We are not alone,” I told him. Dave set his ipad down on his lap where it glowed.

And then we both heard it—a sound like a few, small pebbles hitting the roof. In no time, it seemed more pebbles were falling, harder and faster.

Rain, we said, jumping up from our chairs and running to the door.

How to describe that smell. Those first, few minutes of rain hitting the parched ground? And the sweetness that followed—all that water.

We stood on the porch a long time, just breathing in the damp air, watching the rain pour from the eaves, listening to the thunder rumbling in the distance.

The next morning we woke in a cloud. I took my coffee outside and wandered around the lawn in the mist. It was like swimming in a cold lake after a long, hot walk.

lupine at granite basin

photo by Pat Cassen

Autumn, which seemed almost impossible to believe in a day ago, as if the heat and dust would never end, was here.

Soon the oak leaves will turn yellow and fall to the ground, and the black walnut leaves will tumble like bright, gold feathers. When I stand at the kitchen sink and stare past their bare branches, I’ll be able to see high up in the mountains, see the snow covered peaks, and know that next summer the lupine will be waiting for us by the alpine lakes.

5 responses to “Oprah’s Book Club Selection and the First . . .”

    • Susan and Bentley, I love your site! I will definitely be stopping by. Idaho is a beautiful state. Dave and I have been camping up in the Sawtooth Mountains. Just magnificent country. Thanks for visiting me here on the ranch. Best–Jane

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