If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? While some veterans of old canards might think the answer is Pilgrims, around here I’m starting to think the true answer is: more winter than we had the first four months of this year.
It is May 31, one day after Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer, and three weeks to the solstice, which some regard as the official summer start while others, like those wacky Norwegians, consider it “mid-summer.” Either way, it’s supposed to be hotting up, and I have just returned from the Great Outdoors — where I was uncovering plants and shrubs that were being protected from last night’s freeze.
I believe this was our sixth night of doing so, the other five in succession last week. Our weather hasn’t been quite as dramatic as Denver’s, where a week or two ago the word “plummet” came into play, 88 one afternoon, snowing the very next.
But there was one whole day where I complained about the heat, and at work we have opened doors and windows because we’re reaching toward 90 in the back corner where some unlucky printer gets to stand all day. Although this year we’ve hired Andy, who originated in Texas and seems sincere when she says she finds the temperature pleasant as the rest of us are wilting.
And then a week ago Saturday we awoke to what I’m guessing was four soggy inches of heavy, wet snow, which I believe may have made it the year’s largest storm, bigger than anything January offered up, and Kara and Vann resorted to turning their heaters on to keep warm at their desks. Sometimes they do this while the windows are open in the production area. That’s what May really brings, even as the poor trees can’t decide whether to flower or cower.
This year, however, the weather is really about the wind, this horrendous, endless wafting of air that has rushed across the entire state for two miserable months, worse than at any time in weather watchers’ memories. Apparently we have the jet stream to blame for this, and with any luck but bad, it ends in June.
But it has desiccated an already drought-stricken state, even as it’s kept the air cooler, and so when we’re not trying to salvage a yard trying to sprout in the face of intermittent freezing, Lynn and I are watering.
Two Saturdays ago there was that snow, bigger than all of winter, just about, but what the ground didn’t immediately suck in the wind briskly whisked away. This past Saturday came with a strong promise of rain, a promise that got pushed back and back and back until it never happened.
Figuring this was going to be the case — we’re not complete amateurs, no matter what you think — and as some of the rest of you went boating or barbecuing or hiking or whatever else you do for fun on the weekend that marks the alleged start of summer, Lynn and I broke out miles of garden hose and watered everything we could find. It is all so thirsty, and if we could hear plants talk we would be surrounded by a cacophonous cry for water.
But watering, which a mere two summers ago I regarded as a Zen sort of evening activity, now has become a major source of aggravation for us.
If we count our contractor, and we probably shouldn’t, but he’s the one who insisted he would do a better job than a landscaper and then didn’t, we have talked to at least four landscapers about our “yard.” I attempted to talk to a fifth, but my message was never returned.
One of the four never followed through on our agreed-upon plan; the other three have had what I would term extremely limited success despite the thousands of dollars we have thrown at them. The one who irritates me most is the one last summer who talked us into a sprinkler system I didn’t want that watered little tiny patches of the grass seed he spread.
That left huge patches of dirt that was so sad it barely sprouted weeds, let alone this second attempt at grass seed, the first now dug up by all the sprinkler system trenches. I was out there every other evening all summer, decked out in my longest, least-hot raincoat, the hood up and cinched against mosquitos, in an entirely futile effort to close the gaps between the tiny bits of watering haves and the great gaping water have-nots.
It didn’t work, and instead of a yard we mostly have mud and sad clumps of crab grass, which is at least green.
We haven’t even attempted to hook up the sprinkler system this year — and why would we, when yesterday morning we had two flakes of snow and we then once again had to cover flowers and bushes to guard against the predicted 28-degree low.
So as thousands of dollars molder under foot, I hauled out the tractor sprinkler we bought right before agreeing to that boondoggle and attached it to one mile of hose. Now, you should understand that Lynn and I have a sordid history with these little tractors: I have no idea what we do, but we break them almost immediately. And you should further be aware that the instructions clearly state to use only on established lawns, which we do not have despite at least four seedings and multiple fertilizings.
So while you — or at least me — would like to think you could set this tractor and walk away, I was putting eyes on it every few minutes as it chugged along, making sure it didn’t run into clumps of weedy grass, or bog down in mud of its own making, or get mired in the depressions — the physical ones, not my psychic state — left behind by the ineffective yet highly destructive sprinkler system.
The tractor worked pretty well on our unestablished “lawn,” although it did bog down a few times and once, right after Lynn made some grim remark about its imminent failure, completely failing. Even though it stopped working Saturday, its malaise –probably despair at its hopeless task — was over by Sunday morning, and almost everything around the house got at least a smidgen of water.
And then it rained. Of course it rained. We watered thoroughly; therefore it rained. You’re welcome.
The rain that has been promised off and on for months, the rain that looked like it was going to spring from every dark cloud that rolled overhead these same many months, the rain that was supposed to come Saturday morning, then Saturday afternoon, then Saturday evening, then Sunday at 1, Sunday at 5 . . . Sunday at 8 p.m., with most of our “lawn” still damp from the tractor’s weekend of work, we got an actual rainstorm.
We had to look it up to remember what it was, and this rare sighting may be all we get all summer, but for a glorious half-hour it rained.
And then it got cold, with those token snowflakes and the overnight freeze (don’t forget the wind, as if we could) and, well, we’ll just see what those May flowers are going to bring.