The clouds that teased rain have drifted away to empty themselves elsewhere and I am left to do the watering myself. I have planted strategically so that the hose does not have to be dragged all over the yard. I can, for the most part, stand on the deck and reach every thirsty green thing.
The hydrangeas are thriving in the low, shaded spot between the deck and the carport, pale blue heads pushing their way out through the dark leaves on thick stems. Down by the steps the coreopsis is fading as the lantana comes to life and the Mexican petunias are just beginning to bud. The Russian heather is already tall and gangly, moving in the breeze like teen-aged boys shuffling their feet on the edge of the dance floor. On the other side in the corner, the rosemary has been cut back and hasn’t quite recovered from the shock, but the lemon balm and verbena and mint are happily rushing over and around each other. I can’t help pinching a leaf and crushing it between my fingers. The scent is sweet.
The three pots on the deck contain a single bright pink Gerbera daisy, a good crop of basil, and a citronella plant. Eventually, I tell myself, I will find the time to come outside after dark, sit back in the reclining chair, and test its powers at repelling mosquitoes. Eventually, but not tonight. Tonight I’m just watering.
The dial at the end has somehow been moved to a position between two of the settings. I don’t notice and turn on the water expecting a steady stream in one direction. What I get is an erratic shooting and significant drip. It takes only a couple of seconds to adjust the nozzle, but in that time I can’t help noticing how many choices I have. Jet. Mist. Flat. Cone. Shower. Angle. Center. Plus something called “½ Vert.”
A true gardener, someone like my Grandmama Anderson, could probably tell me which one is best for each of my green things. A true gardener, however, I am not. I settle for center which shoots forth water at a rate slower than jet, but faster than shower.
Watering, I have found, puts me into a rather meditative state. There’s nothing for me to do except stand there and hold the nozzle steady while water and gravity do the hard work of reaching the invisible and indispensable roots. So I find myself thinking about those settings – jet and mist and flat, cone and shower and angle – and how, at various times and through various experiences, I’ve been watered by every single one.
Getting fired from my first job as a lawyer was a jet, a hard fast blast that tore at the ground around my trunk and left me standing in a puddle of mud. The years I spent at Wesleyan were a fine mist, gentle and consistent. The loss of people I’ve loved were hard angles, leaving me off kilter, and realizing my dream of being an author was a shower, a baptism of satisfaction and joy.
I push the lever that closes the nozzle. By the time I get to the spigot to turn it off, the water – all of it – has soaked into the ground. I hope that I have been that receptive. I hope that I have absorbed the jet and the mist with identical enthusiasm. I hope that I have allowed the angles and the showers to nourish me equally. I hope that with each watering, whatever its force, my roots have dug deeper into the soil.