The garden was the most beautiful it has been. Exuberant and happy, loving the late Spring rain, having been dry through most of October. Plants that had been holding back, diffident about their chances, were now making a run for it, spaces filling up with greenery and flowers tumbling everywhere. Trees were covered in their bright, almost iridescent new leaves. Daisies and poppies waved happily over everything. Bearded iris were being glorious everywhere. Dahlias all up, both new and old. Buds on the roses. Canna lily leaves strong and stately, no longer scared of frost.
The thunder rumbled over in the afternoon, black clouds rolled over the hill tops. It went dark. The clouds burst with torrential rain. The gutters immediately overflowed, and puddles became small lakes in the gravel. The garden steadied itself, drank it in. But then suddenly, hail. Big, hard, ferocious balls of ice, fired from the sky like bullets, bouncing as they hit the ground, thousands and thousands of them, relentless, for a good twenty minutes. I watched it through the bedroom window, terribly anxious, willing it to stop. D. brought the shoes inside, and rescued Bella, who had got confused and didn't know which door to come in.
When it finally stopped, and the thunder and clouds rolled away to cause havoc elsewhere, I went out to have a look. Everything that had been upright and reaching for the sunshine, was flattened to the ground and covered with soil. Petals were bruised, shredded, or simply blown away. Buds broken off. Most of the new leaves on the Persian silk trees gone. Canna lily leaves shredded, as if someone had taken a pair of scissors to them and cut them all up. All the gay purple poppy flowers gone, leaving behind bald stalks sticking up everywhere. New leaves on small new trees now lying in the mud on the ground.
Utterly mysterious how some things appeared completely unaffected. The dahlias, which will succumb at a moment's notice to frost and snails, apparently thought nothing at all of the hail storm from hell. Winter Joy, valerian, pentsemons and salvias, all behaving as if nothing happened. ('Different cellular structure,' said D.) So I counted my blessings, as I always do.
And the glory day of the garden, the day before the storm, has already become defined by its ending. 'I wish you had seen it,' I will say, 'before the hail storm.' Perfection and happiness will once again be known as a memory, and not understood as the living breathing NOW. How lovely it was!