Announce autumn’s arrival.
Leaves yellow, walnuts drop,
The wise man
Covers split wood.
The rainy season has arrived, and with it the smells and sounds of autumn. The ground itself seems to breathe a sigh of relief after the first rain, its earthen breath carrying the captured smells of summer’s cooked soil and withered plants. If you get down on all fours and place your nose an inch or two from the soil, the odor of life itself fills your nostrils. It’s dark, damp and musty, with just a hint of fungal spore and black-cherry overtones. Like a fine bottled wine, corked and sequestered from the natural elements, the parched soil of summer releases fragrant gases and organic by-products when soaked with water.
Suddenly, the garden is grateful; plants standing straight, leaves brighter, everything looking clean and refreshed. Overnight, the moss on the shaded side of the black walnut has turned soft and bright green. The gray squirrels have noticed, and pause their scurrying as if to test the quality of fine carpet. Now that the soil has been loosened, they’re burying more nuts than they’re eating, though no sooner is one nut buried than another squirrel digs it up and moves it to another location. Next spring, those nuts forgotten by the squirrels will sprout black walnut saplings throughout the garden.
In anticipation, the Bambusa oldhamii, a variety of giant timber bamboo, began sending up its new 5-inch diameter culms just a few weeks ago, as if knowing that the rains were coming. Now they grow over six inches each day, making steady progress towards their full height of 40 feet. Each year I plan to harvest the shoots when they emerge, and after soaking to remove the bitterness, slice ‘em up and throw them in the wok with a little sesame oil, garlic and chopped ginger. I never do it, though; the spectacle of bamboo’s meteoric growth always floors me and I can’t bear to interfere.
The ancient natural cycles and rhythms of nature are embedded in the intelligence of the land. The black walnut has no need of the Weather Channel; the bamboo never Googles anything. The squirrels have no boss; they know when to play and when to work. Golden sun crosses heaven, leaves fall and gather, green life emerges. The sacred energy of life flows eternal, unimpeded by marketing.
Lying in bed listening to the raindrops on the skylight in the early morning, dozy and half-dreaming, I imagine a rainy Morse Code of Heaven, which, if I could only sort it out, would impart the wisdom of the ages. Alas, I cannot, and so let its tapping lull me back to sleep.
Rain, rain, rain. I like that in a season.