Magnetic North July 16, 2009: Summer rains make memories bloom

Ducklings
Ducklings

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Welcome back to a wet but happy Magnetic North. After too many days without a drop of rain, it poured Tuesday night. All that day Paul and I watched the sky. Listened to the radio. Rain was definitely prophesied, as my mother used to say. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a prophecy over a prediction any day.

And did we need rain! Grass should be soft, not crunchy. Dirt should be yielding, not petrified. And women of a certain age should be reading the latest mystery novel on the deck, not schlepping water to outdoor plants.

Well, for a few days now, all that is forgotten. The rain began after dark Tuesday and continued well past bedtime. It was pure magic. The rains sure fingers tapped out a steady beat on the roof. And the land drank and drank and drank.
I sat on the couch, chores done, dishes washed, listening to the rain and replaying the day: in my head:
*bonding with the new goat kids;
*hand-training the baby angora rabbits;
*moving the mallard ducklings from the brooder to their outdoor run.
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh Nooooooooooooo!”
I was out the door before I heard Paul calling, “What is it now? Or who?”
"The ducklings!” I hollered back. “They aren’t old enough to get all wet.”
Fortunately, I was out of earshot by the time my beloved could comment about the danger of letting a duck get wet.
Fact is, folks, that ducks raised without a mother - like the ones I get in the mail from a hatchery - are at risk of hypothermia should they get wet before their adult feathers come in. Why? Oil. Water runs off a duck’s back because water birds preen their feathers with oil from a little sac hidden on their back.
Sort of like hair gel for humans. The big difference being that we human moms don’t need to rub hair gel on our babies lest they freeze to death after a bath. With ducklings, it doesn’t take much water to soak them through to the skin. The skinny little things just can’t make enough heat to combat that kind of thing.
Thus, about five minutes before our deluge arrived Tuesday night, I threw together a makeshift waterproof retreat. A big plastic trashcan laid on its side and stuffed lightly with straw was the perfect choice. Clambering around inside the small wire enclosure attached to the chicken coop, terrified ducklings around my ankles, a cloud of fireflies surrounded me, following me back to the house, then flitting about in the rain like naughty children at camp.
Around 5 a.m. the next morning, I stumbled outside to check on the ducklings. They were - of course - fluffy dry. Some even appeared to have grown tail feathers overnight.
Walking back to the house in the early dawn hours, I enjoyed the watery world around me. The spider webs framing the garage doors wore crystal beads of rain. Tiny droplets of dew sparkled on the fuzzy stems of my tomato plants and everywhere else my eye wandered.
And though there was no ocean roaring in the distance, no salt in the air, the memory of summer mornings after a rain at the Jersey shore bloomed in my mind. And I went back to bed in a hurry. Lest the image of beach combing fade before I could weave it securely into my dreams.
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