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Have you seen that bumper sticker that says "No Whining?"

Well, I don't know about you, but it seems to me as though I've been hearing a little more whining than usual lately about our spring weather. This matter of actually having some rain for a change is apparently a bit disturbing for some.

When I first stepped into the back yard last Saturday morning, it looked like nothing but blue skies on the agenda. There was only a hint of morning cool, and the neighborhood flicker was already up on my garage roof "flick, flick, flicking" away.

At our house, most spring Saturdays are dedicated to watching son Sander and his team play soccer, usually somewhere else in the state. The general rule is that we leave sometime around dawn and get back around dark, or often later. But last Saturday we were lucky enough to have a couple of home matches scheduled, and Sander was looking forward to a few hours of plain old kid fun after the games.

By the time we got to the soccer field for the first game, however, the skies were dark and ominous, and the air had assumed a definite clammy chill. Threatening though it was, the rain held off all morning and into the afternoon, until a few minutes after the last whistle signaled the end of the day's second soccer match. When the rain did kick in, it came to stay for a while.

We headed for home, with Sander at his newly self-appointed place behind the wheel. He scowled as he fiddled with the wiper controls trying to coordinate the pace of the wiper blades with the pace of the rain. Being new to the business of driving, he hasn't had all that much experience contending with the forces of nature, and he still assumes it's possible to handle it all with the flick of a switch.

I, on the other hand, with years of attempting to synchronize wiper blades with the intensity of the precipitation of the moment under my belt, have no such illusions. I was about to share this little nugget of fatherly wisdom with him when he launched into a bit of a soliloquy of his own about the weather.

"Doesn't it seem like it's been raining for weeks? If you want to live where it rains all the time, you live in Seattle. It's not supposed to be like this here in Montana," he complained.

I knew he was disappointed that it looked like the remaining hours of his Saturday afternoon would not be optimal for his preferred outdoor activities, namely cruising over bumps and jumps somewhere on his mountain bike. But it didn't bother me a bit.

"Aw, come on, we need the rain. And secretly, you sort of like it, don't you?" I asked.

His grumbled reply was clearly not in the affirmative.

As for me, I like the rain. I like it a lot. I have been savoring the rains that have periodically washed through our valley these recent days and weeks. One minute, blue sky and warming sun drench our valley, and the next, a curtain of rain comes marching in from the direction of the Lolo-Clearwater divide, followed in a while by blue sky again.

What could be better than that?

I don't know if you noticed, but everything turned green around here almost overnight a week or two back. The grassy slopes crawling up to the treeline above the valley have burst forth with the first colors of spring. Every day something new pokes up through earth that has been so parched for so long.

First came the buttercups, then the yellow bells and shooting stars, biscuitroot, pasque flowers, bluebells, kittentails, yellow violets, those tiny pink Douglasia, and now the Indian paintbrush and arrowleaf balsam root are coming on. So many others will appear that I'll never learn the names well enough to write them down and then be wrong about what they are. The ground-hugging leaves of bitterroots carpet the dry, rocky ridges in some places, teasing with a promise of another burst of color four to six weeks from now.

If you are walking in the hills when the rain stops, or you see them from a distance in just the right light, the grass sparkles as though the millions of tiny droplets are perfect diamonds. And the soil for a little while turns dark as it inhales the longed-for moisture.

Closer to home, my lawn, which I reduced to what looked like nothing but brown shreds with a power rake only a couple of weeks ago, has come back to life and needs mowing again. And it appears that my dandelion crop will once again walk off with top honors for my entire block.

My neighbor Jean has been trying to set a good example for me by getting out every day to remove the latest dandelions in her yard, but sometimes I really don't see the point. Last evening, due to her diligence, every dandelion in her front yard had been removed. Then it rained gently, off and on all night, and by this morning a couple hundred new dandelions smiled out at the world from that same yard.

The way I see it, a good whacking with the old lawnmower once a week is all that is required to keep those pesky yellow devils at bay.

But not right now.

It's raining, you see.

I pointed that out to Sander on the way home from the soccer game.

"If it keeps raining, you won't have to spend any of your valuable Saturday afternoon pushing a lawnmower," I said.

"That makes sense," he replied.

So no more whining, please. You just gotta love this spring weather.

And to the mothers in my life who with their nurturing love, like the rain of spring, have gently taught and continue to teach me to see and enjoy the miraculous beauty of this world, Happy Mother's Day.

Greg Tollefson is a Missoula free-lance writer whose column appears each week in Outdoors. He can be reached at gtollefson@montana.com

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