I have been waiting for it to rain in Austin the way it rains in Baton Rouge. I have wanted a torrential downpour, flooding in the roads, constant thunder and lightening. The sound of rapid water slapping my roof and windows without pause.
The last three days have been the closest to a south Louisiana-like rain storm that I have seen, and I’ve relished it. Opened up all of my blinds to let the grey sky fall into the house, and so I could see the water coming down.
Now the sun has come out. Here is what I am hoping to find.
I hope the Austin live oaks that normally look to me like weak old men and women and also like cigarette butts in a crowded ashtray will begin to look taller, grander, as if there is color in their cheeks, which I suppose would be their leaves.
I have been observing lantana and wisteria in bloom. These, too, appear to be drained of energy and color - lacking vibrancy. I hope that the three days of rain will fill the flowers with power – that their petals will droop less, will somehow plump up.
I am not expecting the grass to look less brown. Austin has been in a drought for quite a few years now. But I would be happy to find the grass a little brighter, cheerfully straining up toward the sky.
Anyone who didn’t grow up in Baton Rouge and visited her and then Austin might find a lot of similarities in the landscape. And there are some crossovers. Ones I’ve mentioned, live oaks, wisteria, lantana. I’ve also seen bald cypress trees, Pittosporum tobira (although I’d thought it was invincible until I discovered the shrubs at my house are literally dying), nandina (just as invincible here in Austin).
What I have not seen so far, but I’m not going to completely assume they’re not here somewhere, are azaleas, crape myrtles, red maples, camellias, Japanese Magnolias, irises, spider lilies, purple liriope, banana trees, sago palms, elephant ears, cassia, Japanese plums, basically anything tropical or water tolerant in nature.
In place of tropical and/or water tolerant, I find a good dose of desert plant life and drought tolerant growth. Prickly pears, other cacti and rosemary come to mind. Imagine a photograph in sepia tone. If you took a look at the south Louisiana landscape through a colored filter, I think that filter would be nearly neon green. Spring green. In Austin, sepia seems to be a good description. There is a lot of brown. What strikes me is that, in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and really any place in south Louisiana, as brown as all of the water appears to be – it is striking placed beside the crisp, vivid green of elephant ears and horsetail and grasses and bald cypress needles. The contrast is striking.
Eventually, I am going to learn some of the desert plants that thrive in this equally southern climate. There are certainly lots of pretty desert blooms I’ve laid eyes on. Yet, I have to say, the dirt colored undertone makes me mighty thirsty.
On Thursday, I didn't have an umbrella, and it was raining fairly hard (hard-ish?) outside. But the rain here falls slow, lazily, so that by the time I walked from my car to class, I was not soaked at all. I had expected to be SOAKING wet. I had pulled my scarf over my head, and it took all the water, not even soaking through a little to my hair. My pants didn't need to be rolled up. My toes were not wet inside my shoes.
The rain storm hasn’t been a Louisiana rainstorm, and it tempts me to plan a visit in late August or early September so that that I can curl up on a couch like a cat and stare out of a window for a few days. Maybe even take a stroll through the battering rain. The kind that makes your skin hurt - like someone is hitting at your arms and face. But for now, this rain has quenched my thirst, and I’m happy to go outside and discover what effect the water has had on the color of Austin.