Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hail, Full of Grace

The apprentices and I were just about done with this week's livestock seminar. As we walked towards the house, huge drops of rain randomly splatted at us from ominous dark clouds.

"What huge raindrops!" J. exclaimed.

"Mmmm. Looks like hailstones that melted before they got to the ground," I said. I hadn't ever given that much thought before. It just popped out of my mouth. We kept walking. It had been a hot, windy day, and the cold drops really didn't feel that bad. And there weren't very many of them.

J. headed off to the far side of the back yard to deliver an item that direction. The rest of us kept strolling towards the back door of the garage.

As I watched, the sparse random "raindrops" started slamming down even harder, and bouncing.

"Hail!" I shouted at J. She kept heading across the yard, oblivious to the stuff coming down.

"Take cover NOW" I shouted. I try to avoid directing the "command voice" that I use with the dogs towards people, but every now and then a direct order seems appropriate to elicit an immediate response.

By the time she ran to the garage door and turned to look back, hailstones--some of them more than an inch in diameter--were slamming into the ground HARD. Not very many of them, not enough to blanket the ground, but maybe 10-15 per square foot.

"Wow!" She said. "You weren't kidding when you said it was hail instead of raindrops."

How had I known it was melted hail, not rain? I thought about it. I had just learned to know the weather, its various moods and subtleties, like I would a person. I learned this not from books but from experience. The same way you get to know a friend or a pet spending countless hours with them, not necesarily talking but just doing your own stuff in close proximity.

Most folks live their lives separate from the weather. They may not even know it rained that day when they leave work at night...their building may have no windows. They get home, close the blinds, and turn on the TV--suddenly it's an autumn morning instead of a spring evening. On the other hand, I work out in the weather, regardless of whether I'm at the farm or driving the bus.

We watched in wonder for a couple minutes. Then it was done. We photographed a couple of the largest hailstones, looked at their beautiful ringed structure in the magnifying glass. And imagined being clobbered by them. Wow, that would hurt!

My thoughts kept returning to the lush, luxurious stand of spinach I HAD been mentally preparing to harvest tomorrow morning for Farmer's Market. It was surely shredded now. And the gorgeous green onions would be marred by white scars where each hailstone struck. J. and I looked at each other after the other apprentice left. We'd put a lot of work into the garden. What was left? We headed out there, prepared for the worst.

To our amazement, we couldn't find a single hole in a spinach leaf, nor a broken one, even though we could see the big hailstones on the mulch under the plants.

Miracles do happen. And grace, is.

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