Morning sprints in on a trail of fire, acrid smoke seeping everywhere. The paddocks are misty with a reddish brown haze that colors and obscures everything. The world has gone indistinct. A hot wind spirals a choking swirl of yellow. It's inescapable. My eyes are smarting and there's a tickle in my throat. The actual bushfire is 175 kilometers away in Northcliffe, but it tastes like it's right here. 175 kilometers away actually is right here.
I head off to sample the Chardonnay and as I get ready to stoop under the net I meet a frog. He's living in the little microclimate of damp under the vines where it's so lovely and moist. I'd have thought it gets too hot under the summer sky for him but apparently it's wet enough in the vines for him to thrive. There surely are ample insects to gorge on here. I scoot along the rows randomly gathering grape bunches, ducking under elaborate spider webs, careful to not upset their handiwork. The atmosphere is clean in here. The morning breeze off the ocean has cleared the skies and air. I can no longer smell the smoke. The grapes are clean and cool and free of smoke taint.
I'm hungry for relief from the relentless sun and continue on, praying for the sun to take a vacation, for dark skies and chilling winds and fresh rain to come. I know that that goes counter to what a grape farmer should think, but I am desperate for a change. We will pick in a couple of days and I simply don't care if it rains or not. I'm parched, miserable, intolerant and expectant. I'm told precipitation is on its away, but there's no evidence of it here.
Evening finds me in the shade of the apricot tree, watching clouds mount up in the darkening sky. Was that lightning? Moments later a drop of rain pings my head. It's the tiniest loneliest drop. I nearly hold my breath to not jinx this godly gift. Then another few drops spit down. A few more and I could fit the sum on the point of a pin.
And then a whole lot of big drops bomb me, and without my having spotted it happening, the sky has morphed into a deep crimson and purple and various shades of dark, and a brigade of clouds have blown in and lightning bolts are zinging here and there. One after another and the thunder is rolling across the ridge and my shirt is wet and the sound of rain pounds on the tin roof and the sky is a renaissance painting of activity and colors and it continues raining, it doesn't stop, it really is raining now, and a smell of life arises all around from the parched earth.
I'm soaked. And the storm is raging on, clearing the air, bringing a change, of sentiment and of season.
Harvest is less than 36 hours away.