It’s been a long dry summer for me, literally as well as creatively. After more than two months with no rain at all, the thunderstorm finally came this morning, and my first cup of coffee and I were on the back porch by 6:15. Half a cup later, I gave in to the temptation to dance in the rain, but when my neighbor’s kitchen light came on, I retreated to the porch so she wouldn’t think I was crazy. However, those few minutes knocked a couple of stagnated brain cells loose and made me wonder about the magic of rain, especially when I thought about a friend and the “gypsies” living on the semi-secluded lot next door to him. He said they’re quiet and keep to themselves, and leave for work every morning and come home every afternoon to tents they’ve set up on the property. They sound very mysterious to me, very magical, so I broke my own dry spell to write about them.
Maybe when gypsies come these days, they come not in wooden caravans with peeling paint and bedraggled tassels on horses’ manes.
Maybe when gypsies come these days, they come in rusted-out pickup trucks and Jesus-freak hippie vans and VW Beetles so faded their color is a mystery.
Maybe when gypsies come these days, they come not to sell us things or sharpen our knives or paint our outbuildings and not (according to ancient fear) to steal our children.
Maybe instead of parking wooden caravans in forests deep where only the bravest go, they choose a vacant lot for their temporary home. Maybe they dot the landscape with their rusted vehicles and hammer out a plan to live, a place of tents anywhere a good-hearted neighbor will let them pitch their canvas village.
Maybe instead of dancing wildly around campfires in the night forest as their caravanned ancestors did, they honor the fear of flying embers in this sun-baked land, this land of parched vegetation waiting to explode at the slightest touch of gypsy flame.
Maybe they pitch their tents and go to work each morning and come home each afternoon and disappear into their canvas walls to work their magic where we can’t see them.
Maybe there are chants and magic stones and vials of sacred water inside their vagabond homes, and maybe they dance a wild dance inside the confines of canvas to call the rain.
Maybe they stay a week or two, or four or ten. Sometimes it takes longer. The rain will come when it is called but on its schedule, not theirs.
But one night it will come, and when the gypsies awake to a wet land with its promise of green, they will shelter inside their tents and watch as the rain they have called washes the world.
Work will be forgotten, and they will dance barefoot in the puddles and grind their toes into the deep-soaked earth. They will shake raindrops from limbs of thirst-quenched trees and rejoice at their power to call the rain.
Eventually, they’ll return to their shelters, pack up their belongings, dismantle the canvas walls, and drive away in their metal caravans, their rusty imperfections shimmering bronze and copper in the rain.
No one will know when they leave, just as no one knew when they came. Some will wipe the rain gypsies from their mind, having never recognized them for what they are but glad to be shed of them, glad to be free of the unfounded fears they brought along with their rain magic.
But a few will stop to inhale the earthiness of the freshly cleansed world, to look at grass that smiles greener and crystal raindrops that create their own rainbows. A few will place a tentative toe in the puddles that should make children of us all. The few will realize what the rain gypsies have done and will bid them safe travels as they journey to another parched land down the road.