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Kittredge: Rain Relief

I wonder what farmers think when they wake up to yet another forecast of possible showers: mow the hay now gone to seed and risk it’s getting wet and the tractor getting mired in the mud or just look out at the yellow, stunted corn, chew nails and curse?

Vegetable gardening has also been very frustrating this summer. Nitrogen becomes available to plants when the soil is well aerated. Keeping my garden soil fluffy and fertile has been almost impossible. Scratch and cultivate though I do, one hard dump of rain compacts the ground and generates green mold by morning. No wonder the basil plants are booking flights to Italy.

This summer’s wet weather threatens more than plants, however. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra just concluded its summer tour and five of the eight scheduled concerts had to be moved indoors because of impending thunderstorms or saturated parking lots. Understandably, many people who had idyllic visions of picnics and starlit nights with music wafting in the air, decided not to buy tickets because indoor gymnasiums simply don’t hold the same appeal. Ticket sales slumped considerably and preliminary estimates suggest they may have lost in the neighborhood of $70,000. Like the farmers, musicians and administrators are chewing nails. Only two and a half years ago the Mozart Festival closed its doors after two summers of abundant rain.

During the performances, musicians and audiences alike felt like soggy corn stalks, gasping for air – even though the music was the same indoors or out, the quality of their offering not affected.

Others who have been severely affected by the rain are those without shelter. Having endured an especially unrelenting winter, they’re still living outside. We are less apt to imagine the plight of the homeless in summer than in winter; after all, Vermont in the summer is heaven and many of us choose to go camping and sleep outside. Getting rained on while on while camping can be soggy but soon turn into fodder for great reminiscing. But living outside for the last six weeks has been a trial of biblical proportions. Recently I’ve spent time in campgrounds visiting people who are not there by choice; they are there because they have nowhere else to go. If they’re lucky, they have a tent but most tents have become boats and any bedding now resembles a bog. Nothing dries out before the next rain; what food there is rots and mosquitos and illness bearing viruses and bacteria abound.

Summertime support for the agencies and churches that offer aid to these people is desperately needed. And here’s another way to help: on our next trip to the supermarket, we can purchase some in-store gift cards. People are reluctant to hand over cash to those on the street and at traffic intersections, but giving a gift card is always welcome.

Plants and people all thrive on sunshine; how lucky we are to be able to spread some light and harmony even in the rain.

Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.
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