Should I pray for rain or pray for wisdom?
The worms appear to have joined a suicide pact. I see them out of their dirt, baking in the hot sun, struggling as their bodies dehydrate. At times, several will gather in one spot to fry. It is as if they know the rain will not fall again soon enough, so they march into the blazing sun in defeat, ready to die.
The worms signal that the hot, dry weather of August and September has arrived early. It’s the kind of hot and dry that transforms lush, green grass into brittle, brown sticks. The kind of hot and dry that wilts tomato plants. The kind of hot and dry that leaves us praying for rain.
Old timers look to the skies for a hint of rain in the distance. Younger folks pull out their smartphones, watching radar. I admit to doing the same. I watch sadly as the chance of rain drops from 30 percent to 20 to the single digits each day. “Do you think it will rain today?” is heard as commonly as “please” and “thank you” in my neck of the woods. We obsess about the rain, or lack of it.
Some of us, desperate to save our green grass, will water our lawns. In the past I have railed against the wasteful watering of lawns. But I am a hypocrite. I turned the sprinkler on a couple weeks ago.
Those of you who live in the city with nice, tidy, picturesque lawns may be immune to what I call “move the sprinkler” syndrome. You may even have in-ground irrigation that waters your lawn perfectly each day.
Those amenities are rare in the country, where yards can stretch for acres. So, those of us who worry over green grass are forced to rely on hundreds of feet of water hose and some type of device that sprays water. And the sprinkler must be moved, often, lest you over-saturate one part of the yard and leave another parched and dry.
At our house, the task of moving the sprinkler falls to my oldest son. He is not happy about this arrangement.
The process is more painstaking than you would think. I decide which patch of grass we will attempt to water, test out the arc of the oscillating sprinkler, estimate how long the sprinkler needs to run, and then try to explain which part of the yard to water next and where exactly the sprinkler should be placed. Get it wrong by just a few feet and you’ll have a patch of death among the green.
All of this I explain to a 12-year-old with the attention span of, well, a 12-year-old. Sometimes, it goes well. Sometimes, not so much.
“Have you moved the sprinkler yet?” “Is the sprinkler still on?” “Did you make sure it got the spot over by the oak?” “How long did it run before you moved it?”
The family’s patience is running thin with this obsession. “It’s just grass” is the usual reply. And upon further reflection, I agree, it is just grass. But at this point, I am committed to watering. If I stop now, the grass will die and the thousands of gallons I’ve poured on my yard will be for nothing. Wasted.
The experts say grass needs only an inch of water per week. But that assumes the grass is growing in healthy, fertile soil. My yard does not have healthy, fertile soil. Or even soil. It’s just dirt, and a couple inches below that is more dirt mixed with gravel. I am convinced I live in an ancient gravel pit, long ago covered over with enough dirt to allow flora to live but not thrive.
My brittle grass cries at one inch of water per week. It demands more, much more.
I have yet to actually pray for rain this summer. It seems a bit silly, considering I do not count on the rain falling on my property to feed my family or keep me alive. I am not a rancher out west searching for grass to graze cattle on. I am not a farmer in the Delta who needs rainfall to irrigate row crops. I am not in Africa, where clean water is worth more than gold. Those are the folks who should be praying for rain.
Me? I should probably be praying for the wisdom to just let the grass turn brown. If the worms are to be believed, all my watering will be in vain anyway.
Luke Horton can be reached at email@example.com.