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A soggy artistic vision

What is it about artists and rain? I know J.M.W. Turner had himself tied to the mast of a ship in a storm at sea so his paintings could gain a certain extra authenticity. But he's done that, so why do other artists feel the need to emulate?

It rains virtually every time the Visiting Artist visits the plots.

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She even faxed me a few days before her last visit (to be on a Thursday) to say: "Make sure everyone over there does their washing on Wednesday." Clothes dry so much better in sunshine.

She was right. It poured cats and dogs within minutes of her arrival. Such relentless watery droppages do not make open-air art an easy business.

When Lynne (the V.A.) and her friend David arrived, I was standing in my central hole. I was talking to Nurse Elizabeth and Neil, who were sensibly not in the hole, but on its periphery. I had gone down into my hole to demonstrate to Elizabeth precisely how I am organizing the anticollapse sandbags I am slowly installing. We had talked on long after this explanation had ended, but somehow I was still in the hole. It's not an enormous hole, as holes go, so I was happy to be its only inhabitant.

My shed, similarly, is not a vast shed, as sheds go, so that when the rains (definitely plural) started to suggest a second flood, and we all headed for shelter, the shed very swiftly reached its seating capacity.

When I say "seating," however, I should point out that there is only one official seat (an upright bentwood chair). The rest of the floor space is taken over by a three-quarter bale of good Scottish straw.

So while David perched on the bentwood chair, and I hovered (standing) at the threshold, Lynne and Neil sat on the straw like a couple of unlikely farm laborers taking a break during harvest.

I am not certain that she noticed the wishful, if ironic, symbolism, but Lynne started drawing what caught her eye outside the shed and that happened to be a sunflower. I am proud of my giant sunflowers this year. But now going to seed, and dripping profusely in the universal weep, they looked like a sad remnant. While she adroitly delineated the hanging, soggy head, we chatted on. And, like kids wanting to go out to play, we all gazed at the bucketing rain.

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"We all," that is, except Nurse Elizabeth. She had announced she'd head for her plot for a moment just to ... just to what? I don't remember. The words must have been drowned.

Never before had my shed had so many visitors. Actually it had never before had any visitors, except me and the dog (who's taken to sitting on the straw as if she were a born-again farmyard sheepdog).

Then, suddenly, something typically Scottish occurred. A rainbow. This little northern country specializes in the most wonderful rainbows, and I never tire of them. The shed filled with oohs and aahs ... which dissolved into laughter. The cause was Elizabeth's return. She had looked delightfully summery in her rather 1950-ish cotton frock earlier. But now you'd think she had just swum the Atlantic in it.

Laughter can sometimes be unwittingly ungenerous. But Elizabeth was laughing, too. What can you do when you are a vision of ultimate human wetness?

Come to think of it, what she could have done was blame the Visiting Artist. The rainmaker.

*A weekly series about a municipal garden in Glasgow, Scotland.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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