Like a dry, weary land without water, my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.
The shower swept through around 2 AM. I awoke and listened to the sound of wind and rain buffeting my house. If it were daylight, I would imagine a gleeful child aiming a garden hose at the windows and siding. In the thunder-rumble darkness, however, the undulating sound conjured images of grinning apostles, drenched and riding the waves of a night-time gale on Lake Galilee.
In the morning, when I checked the gauge, I imagined similar grins on the faces of my cotton-farming neighbors: 1.3 inches of rain! In this arid region, rain routinely gets measured in 100ths of an inch. The sight of gleaming water inside that narrow tube felt abundant beyond belief.
I dumped the water. The stream disappeared into the soil as quickly as a smile from a farmer’s face. In the current drought, the shower’s effect would prove transitory, if not negligible. Yet, despite the odds of turning a profit, laments about dry conditions rarely turn sour. Farmers in these parts close their comments with a hopeful adage: “We’re one day closer to rain.”
The resilience of dry-land farmers recalls a conversation I once had with a friend. Arnie, a Lutheran minister, grew up on a Kansas farm. One night, as we visited on his porch, he expounded on a personal theory that people assume the quality of the land on which they live.
“When a farmer tills fertile land,” he said, “that farmer drives himself hard and reaches for high yields. But if his land is poor, the farmer is humble. Content with a little, his spirit grows grateful instead of anxious.”
Arnie was a dedicated pastor, a good mechanic and an EMS volunteer. A year after our front porch conversation, he died in a farm accident in a parishioner’s field. The sacrifice of his life soaking like blood into the land he trod.
He got up from the table, removed his outer garments,
and tied a towel around his waist.
This evening, I sit alone on my porch. The view of my pasture reveals puddles of shimmering dust amid clumps of dead grass. I try to imagine how it would appear to Arnie’s eyes. Would he discern from this hardpan land, the dust that swirls inside my soul? Gusts of straight-line Alzheimer wind ripping asunder all memory of homestead love in my sister’s once solid and steady mind? The crackling advance of wildfire addictions ravaging the lives of people I love?
Would I confess to my Lutheran friend that my inner well pumps only sand? And that, at night, I irrigate my pillow with sweat and tears? Would I mention the days when I hold life in my hands like a broken plow?
How might Arnie reply? Like a farmer wiping dust from his brow? Or, like a disciple, would he glance at the road and speak of a different sort of dust? Then, pointing to the ground, would he refer to a different sort of moisture? Not water siloed in a gauge of glass, but grinning in a basin next to my feet.