Living Through the Dry Days

“It’s the dust,” the old man said. “I can’t stand the damned dust.” And he couldn’t.

Moving through the house, he dusted reflexively, compulsively: the dampened cloth swinging and swiping in defiance of the elements. He considered dry heat a personal affront; wind an insult; dust a threat — inescapable reminders of those wretched childhood days atop the Caprock when dust was not merely an annoyance but a destroyer.

Even after the worst of the Dust Bowl years had passed, he absorbed his family’s grief and fear-filled stories. There was the blowing sand, stripping his uncle’s car of paint in less time than it takes to tell the tale. There was his mother, wedging damp towels into cracks around the windows and doors of the old house, re-wetting them with her tears. One neighbor, caught out in a fast-moving storm, became disoriented, unable to see and certain of death by billowing and unconstrained dirt. Although he survived, it was said he never recovered.

Even the apocryphal stories rang true. Did a Panhandle priest flee back to Illinois after that terror-filled Ash Wednesday service: seeking solace in the valleys, verdant fields, and rivers of his midwestern home? No one had proof, but no one doubted it was possible. Priest or not, what man could endure reminding his fellows that from dust they’d come and to dust they would return, even as the dust of destruction overtook their lives?

“Were you afraid it would happen again?” I asked. “Sure,” he said. “It didn’t take much to remind folks. Still doesn’t. When the rains don’t come, people get nervous — kind of alert. They watch the sky; look for clouds; sniff the air. When the first well goes dry, if there’s no hay, if the springs stop running…”

He trailed off, considering. “When I was a kid,” he said, “I’d sit on the front step of the house. There wasn’t anything around but the lane out to the road, and the fields. I’d sit there and watch the wheat blow, bending and waving. It looked like I thought the ocean would look if I ever could see it.”

“I looked at that wheat and thought about water while I waited for the clouds to build. Sometimes I’d think about what it was like to have a really good rain. Anybody living in the Panhandle better hold on to a few good rain memories. They’ll stand you in good stead in the dry days.”

It’s a dry day, now. Coastal marshes are growing shallow, leaving water birds perplexed. Tendrils of smoke curl in from distant fires; even the frogs are silent. Perhaps the creatures are remembering other dry times: considering their own experiences of endurance and survival. Perhaps, like people of the drought and like the earth itself they, too, are waiting for refreshment; for renewal; for rain.

Seed takes no pleasure in a thin and heat-parched earth.
To root and hold demands a different soil:

damp, receptive loam turned and broken,
fields unrolled from horizon to horizon
with a firm and measured hand.
Straighter and less complicated than a river’s curl
furrows slice across the land, silent and predictable.
Their simplicity refreshes.

Around them,
rotting fences dissolve in mist
while birdsong drips like dew
and coursing torrents
from billowing clouds
wash clear both air and sight:
sluicing through fields and flooding ditches,
joining seed to furrow and enlivening growth
before ebbing and flowing
away.
~ Linda Leinen

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121 thoughts on “Living Through the Dry Days

    1. Thank you, Liz. Rain arrived here overnight, but much of the state still is in desperate drought; it’s a reminder of just how large Texas is. Of course other states are in equal need; everyone’s longing for a change in the weather patterns. On the other hand, we’re nearly to hurricane season. A hurricane can be a drought-breaker, but wishing for one of those isn’t wise.

    1. Thank you so much. I find weather of all sorts compelling, and I enjoy writing about it. In some cases, I’d far rather write about it than live through it.

      1. Since I don’t have to drive through it anymore, I live through all weather pretty comfortably; oh, of course, that is if the AC works well and there’s money to pay for it.

        1. Well, now. That’s the trick, isn’t it? Keeping the AC running is one thing, but being able to pay for it’s another. I’m somewhat amazed by people who think 70F is a nice inside summertime temperature. Apart from the fact that it’s a little cold for me, I can’t imagine paying the bill. We all make decisions, I suppose. I certainly am glad I don’t have to commute through some of our truly awful weather. Since I can’t varnish in bad weather, commuting’s a non-issue!

    1. The poem’s been kicking around for a while, but it just wasn’t right — until now. It’s always a pleasure to be satisfied with a piece of writing, and this one satisfied me. I’m glad it appealed to you, too.

  1. What beautiful language — emotionally stirring — frighteningly real. Our drought continues here in SoCal. Increased water rationing. What does the future hold for moisture here is the question?

    1. As many hurricanes as I’ve been through, our 2011 drought affected me as much as any of those storms. Some of the emotion from that time — the waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the drought to break — still lingers, and informed this piece. I’m glad some of that emotion came through. Now, if only more rain would come through for areas like yours that need it so badly.

      1. What a beautiful poem! Your insightful, carefully selected words definitely touched a place in me as well. We were just talking about the 2011 drought, well, because of the intense heat we’ve been having with no rain. You’re so right; the waiting…the heat…you’ve captured it so well here. Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing!

        1. We had such a lovely, extended spring it’s been quite a surprise to move into this constantly windy, increasingly hot stretch. But, it seems now that it may be changing; I hope the entire state gets some relief.

          I’ve thought often about the 2011 drought. Combining that experience with the stories I’ve heard from others about those earlier droughts allowed me to combine those real stories with a bit of imagination. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    1. What a cheering comment, David. If there’s anything Mary Oliver and I have in common, it would be a love of nature in all its expressions, and a healthy respect for words. If that combination here brought her to mind, I couldn’t ask for more.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed them. The top photo is from the Willow City loop, just north of Fredericksburg, Texas, and the second was taken near the historic El Capote ranch near Monthalia.

  2. Some in Austin last night were kept awake in their beds as rain finally hammered down for the first time in probably two months.
    Your “joining seed to furrow” uniquely states what cultivation does. Seamus Heaney’s “sluice-rush” has its echo in “sluicing through fields.”
    My morning mind read “dust of destruction” and telescoped it into “dustruction.”

    1. I woke to the sound of rain about 3 a.m., and smiled. I’d seen the system on radar earlier and hoped it would hold together. It did.

      ‘Sluice’ is one of my favorite words, along with ‘susurration’ and ‘serendipitous.’ I’m not sure where my affection for ‘s’ came from, but it may be rooted in the words of a favorite camp song that I loved singing even when not at camp: the Dutch spinning song “Sarasponda.” While looking for a decent video, I found this interesting version sung by Spanish speakers. No translation needed!

          1. And had you studied French, you’d have sidled into this sibilance:

            Combien sont ces saucissons-ci?
            Ces saucissons-ci sont six sous.

            How much do these sausages cost?
            These sausages cost six sous.

  3. No rain here since last August…9 months ago.
    When the cold front blew in yesterday morning, visibility dropped to less than 1/8 mile from blowing dust. Much of Big Bend is now in Mexico.

    1. I can believe that. From time to time, we’ll get dust and industrial pollution from Mexico up here. The worst ever was a red dust that was particularly noticeable on cars and boats. That hasn’t happened in years; perhaps some mitigation techniques have been applied. Of course, sometimes dust is good. Plenty of people hope for Saharan dust during hurricane season; it’s one of nature’s mitigation techniques.

      1. I’d hoped the Big Bend would get some last night, but everything was to the east. We got a half-inch, but we’re hoping for more tonight and tomorrow.

  4. As the climate changes there are many folks struck with drought, and as a Californian who has survived a wildfire that consumed my home and community, I can really relate. I like the story, Linda, and the poem. You did an excellent job of capturing the deep anxiety that comes with waiting, waiting, waiting for rain to fall.

    1. I’ve often thought of drought as a slow-motion disaster. Hurricanes and tornadoes are more immediately obvious and more violently destructive, but the effects of drought, while equally serious, sometimes get short shrift because they’re less dramatic. It’s not until the crop failures or wildfires hit the news that people on the ‘outside’ begin to pay attention.

      I well remember our 2011 drought, and the waiting that marked that summer. When you know the date of an ending, it’s one thing. But to wait without knowledge of a date certain for the end is something else entirely — as you so well know.

    1. We certainly can use some torrents, Gretchen, although as people here often say with a slightly rueful grin, we’d prefer that our rain come without a name. Hurricanes and other tropical systems certainly do bring rain, but sometimes they overdo it!

  5. Your words remind me of Ken Burns The Dust Bowl. A stark and terrifying time. Thankfully more modern farming methods might prevent such a scenario happening again. But waiting for a drought to end is hard.

    Beautiful writing.

    1. Waiting “for” something — Christmas, or a birthday, or a long-planned trip — is one thing. Waiting as a condition of life is an entirely different experience, whether it’s waiting for a change in the weather or something entirely other — as you know.

      I especially appreciate your compliment on the writing. I’ve had some pretty high-minded quotations that have guided me in the past, but here’s my current favorite, from John Steinbeck: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

  6. Excellent writing, Linda. Your story and poem hit home for me as we experience a frightening drought in CA. Here’s to being thankful for every raindrop that falls from the sky.

    1. I well remember the first scattered raindrops that fell as the great Texas drought of 2011 began to turn. A SoCal friend recently reported a tenth of an inch or two of rain as well as a return of the marine layer; we take what we can get, even while hoping for more.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. Now, I hope you’ll have the experience of enjoying rain, and soon.

  7. Lovely writing, thank you. Dryness is almost unknown to us on the Eastern seaboard. We get droughts but they’re comparatively short lived. We’re more nervous about the crick gittin up.

    1. The crick gittin up can be an issue here, too — particularly when a tropical system rolls in. Even a long-lasting low pressure system can bring remarkable flooding, with its own difficulties. We’re nearing hurricane season now, and many expressing hope for an end to the drought are careful to add, “But we really don’t need rain with a name!”

      Thanks for reading, and for the pleasure of your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.

    1. Putting you in mind of Steinbeck pleases me no end. I happened to mention to another reader that I’ve grown increasingly fond of a Steinbeck quotation that I found only recently: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” I think the man was right.

  8. Really deep creation of yours, Linda. Are the coastal marshes becoming shallower? I was in Lubbock three weeks ago, and the playas were either completely dry or shallow.

    1. In our area, the marshes seem fine, partly because of high tides caused by consistent and strong southerly winds. On the other hand, freshwater ponds and tanks are clearly suffering, and could use a ‘refresh.’

      On my last trip to the hill country, Gonzales marked a sort of dividing line between acceptable-if-poor conditions and the seriously dry. It was odd to see a stretch of land south of San Antonio between Gonzales to Hondo to Bandera that was much greener; rain obviously had fallen there. But north of Bandera to Fredericksburg, it was terribly dry. I hope yesterday’s system gave at least some relief.

  9. Beautiful poem, Linda, and it’s plain to see you’re a Midwestern girl at heart! My dad always said farmers here somehow managed to get rains just in time — not too much, not too little. Perhaps they spent a lot of time on their knees?? At any rate, radar indicated you were in for some much-needed rain, and I hope you got it. Being as wet as we have been is challenging, but I wouldn’t trade that for dust and drought. I recall stories of the Dust Bowl, when mothers had to tie handkerchiefs around their kids’ faces before sending them outside. Not my cuppa tea!

    1. It’s the Three Bears approach to rain: not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. Strangely, our cotton farmers often pray for less rain, especially at harvest time. When the fields are too soggy, things get tough. Remember the lyrics from the old song? “Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten, you can’t pick very much cotton…”

      Weather is so interwoven into our lives — or at least into the lives of people who do more than sit in an air conditioned office taking Zoom calls. With a good portion of our society increasingly detached from nature, it’s no wonder so many discussions about weather and climate go off the rails. Despite everything, nature isn’t our enemy; it’s that quirky relative that has to be lived with, no matter what.

    1. I’d prefer to say that drought is concerning rather than scary; fear and anxiety certainly are a part of weather experiences, but there’s a good bit of fear-mongering taking place these days that makes dealing with any issue (hurricanes, teen-aged smoking, nutrition, disease) more difficult. Some of our best weather sources here have made a point of offering information without the hype designed to elicit ‘clicks,’ and little by little, they’re winning folks over.

      As for being dependent on the weather, that’s more true than many people realize. As one so deeply involved with gardens, you certainly appreciate that dependence. My own work day is shaped by the weather. Learning to cope with the fact that I can’t change it was much harder than learning to varnish. On the other hand, I’ve turned into a crackerjack short-term forecaster: feeling wind shifts, sensing rising humidity, and smelling approaching rain are skills that can’t be learned from a book, but those skills certainly make life easier.

  10. Beautiful, Linda. I read this late last night, and now after a healthy sleep, I appreciate it with more attention. Now my strongest mood is not one about the history and of this man, but is focused on you. Do you have a premonition— it is like waiting for that shoe to drop?

    Down here I continue to witness the fragmentation of the land – and even brutal pruning of tree limbs through the city, to ‘let in the sun’ so the grass will grow better.’ I ponder how hot it is in the sun, and what a relief any pocket of shade can be – and the winds that seems to dart between those pockets of shade… and I wonder why many people do not connect the importance of shading the earth via those lovely guardians called the trees.

    Do you receive Brain Pickings? (now published with a different name – the marginalian) She has a lovely part dedicated to trees today.

    1. No premonitions here, unless you count my sudden impulse to write about rain in both blogs. That was less a premonition than a chain of events, which I can detail for you with remarkable precision. (It doesn’t always happen that way!)

      Last weekend, I was listening to Rodney Crowell’s “Earthbound.” At 3:36 he begins listing names of people who make him want to hang around this old world a little longer, and Seamus Heaney was on the list. I realized I’d not read any Heaney for quite a while, so I looked him up, and found the poem “Rainstick.” As soon as I found it, I knew I wanted to use it, so that resulted in the Lagniappe post. Then, I started thinking about the various droughts I’ve experienced, and the stories I’ve heard, and here we are.

      I used to receive Brain Pickings, but I unsubscribed two or three years ago after I realized I wasn’t reading it any longer. I’d open it, skim, and close it just as quickly. I knew the name had changed, since I apparently still was on some list and received a notification, but as the saying goes, so little time, so much to read!

      1. Yes, I agree about Brain Pickings, and many times I only scan it – but whener I take the time to give her writings full attention, there is always great material waiting… but there is great material waiting from you – and many others, and you rank higher – much higher!

        1. I’ve been trying to remember why I unsubscribed. It finally occurred to me that many of the authors/poets/etc. she included would be those I’d already read. Sometime, as with Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, etc., I even had their books. That’s one reason I started clicking out so quickly.

          1. I’m not sure why (for me) either – unless the beginnings were more pure, simple.. I often opened the page and read the ones of interest when I was back at home… maybe i’ll go back and read some of those early ones — alas, but a family of Striated Herons call, as do my drawings in progress! ‘not today,’ I counsel myself!

    1. I just looked up a comparison of lake levels between 2011 and now, and discovered the existence of the “Sometimes Islands.” Personally, I prefer the explanation that the name first appeared on old nautical charts as an explanatory footnote — sort of like “Here be dragons.” In any event, here’s to your islands disappearing below the surface again, and soon.

  11. When I was a boy, we trekked to southern Mississippi every Fourth of July to visit my mother’s parents. One year was especially dry and the cracks in the red clay between brown, crunchy corn stalks is etched in my memory.

    We lived a total of six years in San Angelo, Texas in the 1970’s where I witnessed some very sad results of a two-year drought. I also was fortunate to learn from a Texan all about flash floods. He may have saved my life as this transplanted Florida boy could have easily tossed his sleeping bag on the wrong set of rocks.

    I am of the opinion our society should have something akin to a draft program for school children which would send them to farms and ranches to work and gain an appreciation of what a hard life it can be to produce agricultural goods for the nation, and beyond.

    Your well-crafted poem captures the heart of what rain means for the farmer and rancher.

    1. Your mention of that dry, cracked earth brought to mind one of the most distressing afternoons I’ve experienced in nature: the day I found a Black-necked Stilt and chicks on a dried-up pond at the Brazoria refuge. If I could have filled that pond with water by sheer force of will, I would have!

      Like you, I had some lessons to learn when I began visiting the hill country: flash flooding was one, and not parking a hot car in tall grass was the other. Down here on the coast, staying out of the water at San Luis Pass gets tossed into the mix. Every year people drown there while swimming or wade fishing; it’s one of the most treacherous spots on the Gulf Coast.

      I’ve never been to San Angelo, but I’ve passed by it. Have you ever been to Paint Rock, or met the weavers there who produce rugs from Llama, Bison, and other hair? I have a rug I purchased a few years ago. I stopped while driving by, and was lucky enough to get a tour of the place from the owners. Paint Rock also has a collection of pictographs (now on private land): the source of the town’s name.

      I agree that kids could profit from the kind of experience you mention. At this point, just getting them out of the house without a game console in their hands would be a start. Perhaps it’s my Iowa background, compounded by my years in rural south Texas, but I’m sometimes moved nearly to tears by the sight of farmers on their tractors at night, plowing or planting or cultivating in the dark. What our current economic policies are doing to them is unconscionable. I’d like to throttle every bureaucrat and pundit who so easily says, “Well, just work from home, or buy an electric car.”

  12. Glad you got some rain, Linda. My wife’s family were scattered by the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. I never heard my father-in-law talked about other than his days working as a migrant worker in California. You definitely captured the anxiety of one who depends on rain to pay the bills.

    1. Oddly enough, I’ve experienced work-related weather anxiety because rain puts an end to my work, just as rain guarantees work for farmers and field workers. The circumstances differ, but the anxiety is the same.

      Your mention of Oklahoma, the Dust Bowl, and the migrants to California brought to mind Woody Guthrie (another Oklahoman) and his stunning song “Pastures of Plenty.” I’m not the biggest fan of Dave Van Ronk, but the combination of his version of the song with Dorothea Lange’s photos is compelling.

  13. Well done, Linda. You captured both the feeling and reality of facing a drought, of watching your crops dry up, or not grow at all. Or blow away with the dust and wind. Beautifully written. –Curt

    1. In Iowa, tornadoes were our thing. After moving to Texas, I became familiar with hurricanes and learned to cope with them, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I experienced real drought for the first time, and it brought to life all of the stories I’d heard from Texans who’d grown up with them. I’m glad that I was able to recreate a bit of that feeling here; thanks for your kind words.

      1. I’m afraid extreme weather will continue to be a factor in all of our lives as we learn to cope with global warming, Linda. We certainly were made aware of that as we had to cut down 50 trees on our property that had died because of the drought. And then there were the fires and smoke. One of the advantages of our new mobile life style is that we can track the weather and hopefully avoid some of the extremes. Your writing, poetry, and photography do a good job of supporting each other.

    2. Speaking of blowing away with the dust and wind, check out this dirt-nado. It popped up outside Morton, in the Panhandle, a couple of hours ago. It’s a fantastic photo from Russ Smith, an Indiana met and chaser who decided at the last minute to make a run to Texas. It sure worked out for him.

            1. It’s been interesting to follow conversations between professional chasers like Reed Timmer and the inexperienced and impulsive who sometimes get themselves in real trouble.

            2. It seems like something you would need a fair amount of knowledge to undertake. We have entered tornado country here in La Junta, CO, Linda, and neither Peggy nor I have any intention of doing anything with tornados instead of trying to keep as far away from them as we can!

            3. I seem to remember a story of you riding out a storm inside a park restroom or some such. Experiences like that certainly can breed a bit of caution!

  14. An evocative post, especially the poem. There’s no comparable drought here near Boston, but the weather has briefly turned quite hot. Friday morning it was in the 50s, by mid-afternoon on Saturday it was 90, and today the high was 99. Not your average May day in these parts. I’m hoping for rain tonight, for the flowers and vegetables I planted in my community garden plot. And hoping for more rain for Texas!

    1. That see-sawing weather you’ve had is typical for us in spring, when cold fronts from the north battle it out with a southerly flow off the Gulf and storms result. High pressure’s kept things quiet and dry this spring, but it looks as though some changes are at hand. We can only hope.

      I hope you get rain for your garden. It took me a while to understand the difference between rain water and water from a hose, at least from a plant’s perspective. It’s amazing to see how differently they respond; I swear they seem happier when it rains, just like we do.

      1. Now it’s back to more seasonable temperatures, 70’s during the day. The wacky seesaw of almost 50 degrees from one day to the next isn’t typical up here. Spring can be chilly not roasting.
        I’ve noticed how rain makes everything green. Hoses and watering cans can help prevent wilting leaves, but plants need rain to thrive.

        1. We outdoor workers refer to certain times of year as ‘clothes-changing season.’ The swings in a day can be substantial enough that we go from sweats to tees and bare feet and back again. It’s been that way for decades and more; it’s just part of our deal.

  15. Droughts are horrible things, and the longing for rain becomes so strong. Your post captured the feelings of despair perfectly, especially from those who lived through the “dust bowl.” Praying for refreshing rain for Texas, and all areas in drought, soon. Our drought has ended by a three weeks of storms and rain, and now we’re worried about flooding…..

    1. As the old expression has it, if it’s not one thing, it’s the other. As much as we’re longing for rain, those with some experience of Texas weather often are heard to say, “We want some rain without a name.” Tropical systems — even a nice low pressure system — can bring welcome rains, but the flooding they sometimes bring can be as destructive as the winds of a hurricane. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could have moderate temperatures and just-right rainfall all the time? Unfortunately, that’s not the way of the natural world!

  16. Such evocative and powerful writing, Linda. My first instinct was The Grapes of Wrath and then the photography of Dorothea Lange. I wish we could share some of our rain.

    1. Thanks, Andrew. I probably spend as much time observing and thinking about weather as anyone who’s not a meteorologist, and it fascinates me: even when it shows its less pleasant face. I wish more people would get to know real weather — heat, cold, wet, dry — rather than depending only on what their little devices tell them. It’s not a project for an afternoon, but a long-term study can yield real results.

  17. Growing up I never was taught about the dust bowl in the USA. I should be taught in every school in the world as an example of environmental disaster caused by man. I liked your narrative, and poem. Brazil, where I com from, has an area in the Northeast that is plagued with droughts, and some of the most beautiful poems and music come from there… people also come from there, waves of migrations to the southeast. Drought has, and will, displace many people… let’s hope more rain.

    1. As usual, no one factor led to the Dust Bowl; an assortment of federal policies and poor farming practices, combined with economic depression, all played a role. Somewhat ironically, at least a couple of plants that were introduced to help slow the soil erosion now have become troublesome invasives. Our salt cedar is one; the law of unintended consequences always is lurking.

      I’d never really examined a map of Brazil, although many of the town and city names were familiar. It was especially interesting to find Joao Pessoa: one of the most fascinating poets I’ve come across was Fernando Pesso, with his multiple literary personas.

  18. Oh, the dust! Of course, like everyone else I’d learned about the dust bowl in school, but had never experienced how truly awful a dust storm could be until we lived in Oklahoma. We had a doozy of one and I remember thinking, “How could anyone stand this for days on end?” The air outside was full of dust and it infiltrated its way into the house, on us, and I could feel the gritty dust on my teeth. I hope to never experience that again!

    1. When a strong dust storm comes, there really is no escaping its effects. Even today, occasional ‘haboobs’ appear in the Texas Panhandle, Arizona, and other dry areas: extreme dust storms that take shape on the outflow boundaries of thunderstorms. Like flash flooding, they don’t necessarily last very long, but that’s all to the good! Gritty teeth are no fun, and neither is cleaning up the house.

  19. The anxiety about dust and the lack of rain is the opposite of my anxiety – too much wind and rain from hurricanes.

    I do the same sky watching and sniffing the air, during The Season.

    I read about the Dust Bowl in school. Watched ‘Grapes of Wrath’ on TCM. I knew it had been bad but I really had no grasp on just how bad it was until I watched several documentaries on PBS over recent years that really brought home to me just how horribly devastating it was. Dust pneumonia was one thing I’d never heard of until I saw those documentaries.

    1. And we’re very nearly into The Season. Right on time, the Houston newspaper is providing click-bait with breathless, wholly unjustified headlines. They haven’t reached ‘the monkey pox is gonna gitcha” level yet, but they’re working on it. Time magazine has a new cover screaming about “Super Storms” — one of our local meteorologists was thinking in the same vein as I’ve been when he posted this response online: “Learn how this new face of weather will infect you with monkeypox by ponying up a cool $14.99!

      It’s interesting that you mentioned the dust pneumonia. That’s a phrase I’ve not heard, but it makes sense. Pollen sure isn’t the only thing that can wreak havoc when its heavy and blowing; another example would be ‘coal worker’s pneumoconiosis,’ or black lung disease.

  20. I could feel how dry it is just reading this (and took a few extra sips of my drink!). I love the poem & wish your whole state a sluicing rain that refreshes!

    1. The rain is around, but it’s hit or miss right now. Some parts of the state that need it most aren’t getting it, while others are doing quite well. Rain envy’s a terrible thing, and I know at least a couple of people who are experiencing acute cases of it right now.

      The more I read the poem, the more I like it. A few lines have been around forever; it just took some time to figure out that I had it heading in the wrong direction, and herded it back to where it needed to be.

  21. We also had some rain relief, due for more, I’ll believe when I see. I love the phrase, “damp, receptive loam turned and broken,” . Receptive. That’s a good word for when soil is amenable to seed. Lovely poem.

    1. I just looked at the reports, and Balcones reporting stations show from a half-inch to over an inch, and there’s more scooting around. It seems that tomorrow and Wednesday may be more productive; I sure do hope so. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. I’m just now considering whether it ought to have been ‘broken and turned’ rather than ‘turned and broken,’ but after all — it’s a poem, not an instruction manual!

  22. I’m off to Amarillo tomorrow morning, right into the hot and dry, and I struggle with it (and against it) just as the old man did. Just the couple of novels I’ve read about the Dust Bowl were enough to frighten me from ever living in such conditions. They make for a good post and poem, though!

    1. Given what happened an hour or so ago outside Morton, Texas, I’d say it’s just as well you’re not heading up to Amarillo until morning. Yes, ma’am, that’s a dust filled tornado: beautiful and amazing, despite its potential for destruction. With luck, the area will get some rain to settle the dust a bit before you get there; be safe, and enjoy!

      1. I’m glad I did not see this until we arrived safely in Amarillo an hour ago! I had no knowledge of this. It DID rain most of our way here, so hopefully we will see no dust tornado tomorrow either!

        1. I’m glad you’re there, and safe. We’re hoping for a little thunder and lightning tonight, just to spice things up, but that kind of wind can spin off to Nowhereville as far as I’m concerned.

  23. I like your story and poem. Hoping your ground is receptive to the rain when you get it. While you suffer through drought and dust we have too much rain and mold. There’s balance for you.

    1. As the old saying has it, be careful what you wish for — you may get it. People here often wish for rain with a caveat, asking for “rain without a name.” No more Katrinas or Ikes or Harveys, if you please! We did get a short rain today that left some puddles around, and the mallards that have wandered over from the nearby marina were having a whee of a time — true puddle-ducks, they were.

  24. Wonderful post and you have such a way with words, loved your poem! We have had such awful .wind for the past 6 months. Sometimes the wind doesn’t lay at night, it just keeps blowing. The fields were bare and they were really blowing. We even had an emergency alert issued on April 29th for a dust storm waring. There were so many days this spring that you wouldn’t go out if you didn’t have too. I can’t imagine what our ancestors went thru during the Dirty 30’s. My grandmother lived out in W Kansas at that time in a chicken coop!! That’s where my mother was born. When you would ask Grandma about those days – she refused to talk about them!
    As with all things, it changes. The fields have cover since the wheat is nearing harvest and the wind has calmed down for the time being. The weather now is calling for a couple of days of heavy rain and much cooler temperatures. Almost June – here comes hot temperatures.

    1. I’ve never heard the dust bowl years called the ‘Dirty 30’s.” It’s perfect, although I suspect only those who lived through it really appreciate the phrase. That’s quite a story about your own grandmother. I confess I smiled when you mentioned her chicken coop. I thought about yours, and about my comment that it looked so cozy I could imagine living there myself. I’ll bet your grandmother would have seen it as a palace! Did she ever get to see your marvelous creations? Some of my side of the family lived in a soddy in western Nebraska; they probably dealt with some of the same difficulties that your grandmother did.

      We’ve had terrible wind, too. Just like yours, ours has been blowing through the nights. Down here, it’s the fishermen who’ve suffered a good bit from it: especially the fishing guides. It’s been hard to get offshore, and the bays have been miserable. Finally, the winds are beginning to lay, and that’s a blessing.

      They’ve been cutting hay here, too, and there are fields full of tasseled corn. The cotton farmers certainly appreciated the drier weather. There have been recent years when their crop began to rot in the fields because it was too wet to get in for harvest. It’s always something!

  25. Wonderful writing, Linda! I could feel the worry, stress and even fear of the Dust Bowl times and present-day drought. Our climate in Suffolk can be very dry, so we know how to appreciate rain!

    1. Thank you, Ann. I enjoyed writing this, and especially enjoyed shaping the poem until it seemed ‘just right’ to me. Today, I woke to the sound of light rain, and discovered I’d slept right through the thunder-and-lightning part of the event. I wish I’d been wakened — I would really have appreciated that!

  26. Anyone who has witnessed and endured any type of natural calamity feels the memories never too far away. When I lived and taught school in the dryland farming regions of eastern Montana, I heard a few stories from the tough times. The survivors managed to view life as living and farming in “Next Year Country.”

    1. While I’ve never heard the phrase “Next Year Country,” I sure enough know the phenomenon and have known people who’ve experienced the feeling. Living with that kind of anxiety isn’t easy, and anyone who thinks it is never has been on the edge. Advice is easy, but uninformed advice can be cruel — like a governmental official with no financial worries telling a whole segment of the country to buy electric cars. They haven’t quite grasped the fact that someone who hardly can afford a tank of gas sure can’t afford an electric car.

    1. If I knew anything of his story, I’d be interested for sure. But all I know is his name and burial spot; since the family never talked of him, and there’s not a single family member left to ask questions of, the kind of details that make for an interesting story just aren’t available. As the saying goes, it’s sad, but true.

  27. We New Englanders have a tendency to think our weather causes us difficulty but we truly have nothing to complain about, at least as of yet, compared to some of the natural disasters that have ravaged other parts of the country. There used to be an Excedrin commercial about your headache not being the worst ever but it’s still yours and you want the pain gone. I guess the same can be said about weather but when reading your story about survivors of the Dust Bowl times and of course the fires that have become more common in recent years we really have been lucky up here. Rare hurricanes or tornadoes and the occasional tremor. It’s hard to imagine the difficulty people had during those years but they found ways to survive such as your mention of wet rag chinking of cracks and gaps in the walls.
    I agree with the mention above that your poem rings of Mary Oliver’s influence.

    1. Every area of the world has its weather-related afflictions. I well remember the blizzards of my midwestern childhood, and the stories of people who ended up disoriented and frozen. Keeping out the cold could be as much a challenge as keeping out dust; my own mother had some terrible (dare I say chilling?) stories.

      I’ll confess I sometimes smile at people who seem to consider heat, cold, rain, or such as unexpected insults. It’s a natural world, and weather is a natural phenomenon: making friends with it and understanding it is far better than hyperventilating over hyped-up headlines. Some of our best local meteorologists are waging a long-term campaign to get people to give up their addiction to media hype, and they’re gaining support. With hurricane season upon us, they should have plenty of opportunities to hone their skills.

      Knowing the genesis of the poem, and having shaped it over time, I really have been surprised by the mentions of Mary Oliver — but of course she’s a favorite, and is often read, so perhaps it makes sense that a bit of her ‘flavor’ should have crept in.

        1. Yikes! Lots of sandblasted surfaces there. I have an acquaintance in Arizona who frequently experiences Haboobs. If he isn’t vigilant about keeping his pool covered he ends up with a few thousand gallons of mud.

      1. Yes, those things are expected, and possibly missed at times, but who doesn’t love to complain about the weather?
        We are a combination of all our life experiences so yes, it does make sense that some of Mary Oliver is alive in your poetry. I haven’t read very much poetry but imagine there’s a bit of several writers/artists in all of us.

  28. We’re experiencing drought, dust and fire now in Colorado. Very unpleasant. My Grandmother and her extended family relocated from west Texas to California during the dust bowl of the 30s, reminiscent of the Grapes of Wrath.

    1. I’ve always found the combination of courage and desperation that set people like your family on the road compelling. My own grandparents set out on such a journey, although they came to America from Sweden when they sought to escape a combination of economic difficulties and natural catastrophes. There are fears here or another bad wildfire season; here’s to improving conditions for us all.

    1. Thank you, Dina. I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction, and the kind of essays that people like John McPhee write, and this was a small attempt at the same sort of writing. I was pleased enough with it to try it again; I’m glad to know you appreciated it.

  29. Beautiful words, being english not my native language I had to read it more times to better appreciate it, but has been a good experience! And I like the photos as well, very good.
    Love the Steinbeck quote, I just read short time ago “The Grapes of Wrath” in a new translation, uncensored. A powerful story.
    Not so hard but we are having a drought problem in Italy too, no rain, no sonw in winter, warmer than usual temperature now. We’ll spend a couple of days in June and ironically after months with almost no rain the weather forecast say …it will rain probably!!!
    It’s ok, we need it!

    1. I’m glad you thought it worth the effort for an extra read or two! I was pleased to have photos in my archives that seemed to fit the writing. I’ve not spent enough time in the Panhandle of Texas to have that sort of truly dusty and dry image, but I thought these from rural Texas did well enough.

      It seems we all long for ‘perfect’ days, but usually are given days that are too wet, too hot, too dry, or too cold! That’s all right. It’s the way of the world, and it certainly helps us to appreciate the days that do come with enjoyable weather — I hope you have some of those days soon!

  30. i remember when the dirt/sand came blowing in to Lubbock, it was so thick,
    yet when the dirt hit the light/telephone poles there were thousands of blue sparks, flying everywhere. i am grateful not too have lived through the time of the dust bowl, what i saw was enough to be glad when the job was done and we moved on.
    Great imagery you have painted with words…
    here in San Antonio I am watching for the perfect rain. it only sprinkled but my daughter said it was coming down at Port A…. at the moment i think any rain would be perfect.
    now i will go water since its not quite wet enough from the sprinkles

    this was a great read
    Take Care, You Matter
    mary

    1. I have a friend who lives in Lubbock and another who grew up in Amarillo, and while they haven’t ever talked about the kind of experience you had, they certainly do remember the wind, the dust and sand, and the way all that complicated life. Like you, I’m glad to have missed the Dust Bowl. We learned a good bit from that, although perhaps not enough.

      We’ve had some nice rains of late, and people in the middle of the state have had even more, but west of you they’re still in serious need. A nice little well-behaved tropical low could help out, but all of us know better than to tempt fate by wishing for that out loud. As the saying goes, we’d prefer rain without a name.

  31. Hi Shore Acres
    This post was so eloquently written and let us feel the historical event that has trauma that can be passed down (like folks who had parents talk and talk about the Great Depression so that they saved – like the opening person dusting and feeling various things here
    And you led into the current dry conditions (glad you got some rain)
    And liked the ending
    “waiting for refreshment; for renewal; for rain”
    Ahhhhh

    1. Some experiences do imprint themselves on people so strongly that even the next generations seem to feel their effects. My mother’s family suffered a good bit during the Depression, and I still can’t keep myself from doing what she always did: counting the number of peach halves in a can to see how many servings it contained. Ironically, some of the lessons I learned from her are more useful in these inflationary times than most of us ever would have expected. There could be some unpleasant surprises waiting for young people who’ve never learned those lessons.

      1. Yes – some young folks could be I for some sobering days!
        I think there was a line in pride and prejudice when the older sister (Jane) gets engaged and the father says something about the couple being so generous they will always overspend their allowance (something like that) but the idea was relating to being economical and even the largest of budgets will need to monitor spending (think Sylvester Stallone once said that when his movies made it big – he had the same hinges to work on – how to grow and manage life and money – but his bank account just now had more zeroes —

        And when you see millionaires getting into financial trouble – well it is a mindset and managing money with human escalating desires can be tricky –
        And that was my husband’s biggest take away from “Generation Wealth” documentary
        – the way human discontentment was depicted and also what is “enough”….
        Hope you get to see it

      2. And one more note – the funny thing is that I already think of your blog sometimes when I am sweeping – because you had a post about sweeping
        And now … we’ll perhaps shore acres will
        Come to mind the next time I dust my little metal bird art.

    1. And because this is Texas, the old saying applies: if you wait a minute, the weather will change. Rain has come now for some of us, although not for all; it’s a big state, and weather envy for other regions never ends. That said, it’s worth remembering that a ‘minute’ sometimes lasts for a month of more. The patient ones survive.

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