A big storm blew through town the other day–we’ve had two rainless days in the past two weeks. I’ve heard of it raining cats and dogs. I’ve even heard of it raining men, but this is getting ridiculous.
Not my first rain post, nor my last–summer wonders are far more than happy people in the warm sun, pretty girls in bikinis, convertibles, surf boards, sailing boats etc. Sometimes it rains, and when it rains one has a choice, if lucky, to run for cover or embrace the gift of it. All the best mornings in my memories are rainy mornings when good fun is wrung from a disappointing beginning.
I’ve had this happen before–one of the unexpected benefits of switching to an SUV from a pickup: no shoveling out the bed.
It’s been a good summer, and today is a good day: the outdoor work hanging over my head has been suspended by gentle rains and I woke this morning to discover the low clouds–fog, mist, call it what you will, have confined my visibility–my experience–to a few hundred yards. A gentle wind shakes droplets of water from the trees, a subtle hint of what was and what, as far as the meteorologists are concerned, will be. Rain.
It’s been a cool summer, but not overly wet. Something about that polar vortex thing that had the media’s knickers in a twist this past winter. The Infotainment Industry loves a good nickname. Cold weather is bland, but call it a Polar Vortex like it’s something Captain Kirk and the Enterprise had to keep from destroying Earth, and we’ve got ourselves a story, folks. That’s why we have wars called Operation Enduring Freedom or Noble Eagle instead of more precise appellations, such as Operation Expensive Boondoggle or Operation Enduring Frustration. It used to be that code names for military operations were random words picked by intelligence experts to give no hint of the mission objectives, but now they’re catchphrases selected by publicists and public relations experts. It’s the same with the weather–and that’s why we don’t have “last night’s heavy snowfall”–we have SNOWMAGEDDON. It’s all just a way to get you to watch commercials.
But I digress…(the official catchphrase of this blog, we’ll call it Operation Easily Side-Tracked.
Although…can one really digress from a column that lacks a defined point? Is a spear without a tip still a spear, or is it just a stick? (On the other hand, it’s much easier to club a guy with a stick than stick him with a spear, one just has to get closer to do it–so does the question really matter?)
It’s a beautiful morning–that’s the point–a reverse-beauty that reminds me of camping and hiking. It’s misting now–tires of passing cars hissing on the road. Days like this find me wistful in a way that demands reflection. I think of waking in a tent, holding off getting up as long as possible, then standing around in rain gear, clutching plastic spill-proof mugs of coffee, or tromping through sodden meadows, or scaling rain-slicked, moss-covered rocky trails. One remembers the uncomfortable moments within a lifetime of sunny days and blue skies, and those memories can be warmer and more brilliant than all the picture-perfect weather in the world.
One of the best memories I have of many days at the beach involves my wife and I mired for an entire day at the Oregon Inlet Campground at Cape Hatteras National Seashore near Nag’s Head, North Carolina. We’d begun the day with a swim, then a leisurely bicycle ride down the road to the Bodie Island Lighthouse. I’ve got this thing about Lighthouses–I’m not content to look at them: I need to climb every one I see. It was a great ride, and a great climb to a great view, but as we rode our bikes back south, the rain began to spit–big, widely spread droplets–and a headwind rose up that seemed to push back with double the effort of every revolution we pedaled. The distance back to the campsite couldn’t have been more than about 3 miles, but it took more than an hour and by the time we arrived at the tent we were soaked in perspiration (despite the wind) and rubber-legged.
And then the rain came. It was welcomed at first–our immediate neighbors had both run for it (a sign, in retrospect), allowing us to strip down in what began as a gentle shower and flop into the tent, butt first, so our sand-crusted feet would be rinsed by the weather. Young, naked, and in a tent at the beach–things began well enough, as you might imagine, but after a few hours were were sitting crosslegged, dressed in clean(er) clothes, playing cards. I loathe playing cards, but the backgammon board was in the van 15 yards away and the rain had evolved into a gray translucent curtain. It would continue, through the rest of the afternoon, the evening, the night, and the next morning. At some point, confined to a 2-person, 6’x7′ Eureka Timberline tent, we made a vow: we would buy a bigger tent, and obnoxiously big tent in which a human being could stand–or at least kneel–without pushing against the nylon skin. Late in the second day, the rain slowed to a gentle shower, and we crawled stiffly from our little cell in the sand to find the campground all but deserted–a mere handful of intrepid (stubborn?) travelers had stuck it out, and several of them were wandering around, semi-dazed.
We were, by that time, soaked–the tent, the sleeping bags, our clothes–but after 30-some hours of deluge the light rain was nothing. We walked down to the beach and strolled for hours, the place pretty much all to ourselves, and by the time we made it back to the campsite a light breeze had begun breaking up the low clouds. Cracks of fading sunlight gave way to twinkling stars. We’d stood our tent up on end to dry the floor, and hung our bags on a makeshift clothes line strung between the van and my bicycle, held in place by a few extra guy lines (yes, it was genius). We cooked noodles on the camp stove while the breeze dried our stuff, and stayed up late watching the stars.
In the morning, the sun rose early, hot and somewhat humid. We packed up and moved south to the campground near Frisco, which was equally deserted, and split the day between sleeping on the beach and floating in some of the most gentle, rolling surf I’ve ever been in. We would travel that entire summer, camping in North Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, and had phenomenal weather–only one other time in 2 1/2 months were we rainbound–in a gorgeously green South Dakota canyon that had been used as a scene in Dances With Wolves–and the irony, after such a long trip, was that those two days are the most vivid memories in a summer’s worth of adventures.
Is this where I say something about silver linings? Maybe. The truth is, I woke up this morning and wanted to write something about the rain, and I wanted to write something for the blog that actually came our of my head with some semblance of immediacy. After all, this started as a writing blog.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but another winter storm is casting it’s frosty eye on Atlanta as it blusters it’s way across the south, promising as much as .75 of an inch of snow and a mere 40F as a high temperature–time to run for the grocery store and stock up on toilet paper, bread, and milk. (that’s an old Pittsburgh joke you probably won’t get, but so what….)
It occurs to me that the city could make a small fortune in tourism revenue sponsoring “flash tours” at such times by selling affordable package deals to northerns who would likely pay good money to watch the carnage while savoring the relatively balmy weather. They already have the infrastructure–the only thing missing is some bleachers down by the highway for when the Snow Miser comes to Southtown, even though it’s in his brother’s clutch.
I guess I feel bad for being a winter bully–especially if (when?) someone dies down there, but it’s hard to take this seriously–probably in the same way that some guy from Death Valley is bemused when we have a “drought,” the rich folks have to stop watering their lawns, and we can only wash our cars on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I truly believe in this plan. The rare southern businesses to stay open will make a killing, and the municipalities can use the additional revenue to, I don’t know, buy a second snow plow or something. This makes me wonder what people in Calgary are thinking. Hell, Minnesota is like this ten months a year–only it’s -40 degrees F, not the balmy 0-10 we’ve been seeing.
*All kidding aside, as the storm is poised to strike, here’s all the luck and best wishes I can summon to Atlanta and the rest of the South.
A pencil-stemmed girl
Stands fist raised on a table
Goblin black stormclouds
Enshroud peaks, squash alpenglow
Pour, blow, flash hate love.
She cackles at the wind
Bring it, motherfucker, yes
You surly bastards!
Alright, alright, alright–good to be back after a nice Thanksgiving with family. We plunged onto the highways after an overnight ice storm, which was pretty much a relief compared to the furious onslaught of snow, wind, and ice the meteorologists predicted. We kept it slow, had a few iffy spots crossing the ridges (Pennsylvania has a series of high ridges along the spine of the Appalachians, oriented north to south, that a traveler must cross to go east or west–they don’t look like much if you’re accustomed to the Rockies, or the higher segments of the Cascades, but one takes them less than seriously at his or her own peril). I have to admit that while I was clutching the steering wheel a little more tightly than usual, I was also enjoying the snow and ice–very seasonal, it got me in the mood. I’m unabashedly in love with the landscape I live in, and a grey day of wind and foul weather is just one of its moods.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, the best stuffing I’ve ever eaten, cranberry sauce, and all that good stuff. Seven pies on the table, quarts of ice cream, and growlers full of some fairly mind-blowing microbrew from my cousin Jarrod, a beer genius who, after several years apprenticing with a prominent Pennsylvania brewer has been hired as a brewmaster for an ambitious mid-western brewpub–good for him, and good for us. We get to drink some sublime liquid bread, and he gets to support his family doing something that he utterly and passionately loves. How awesome is that? How rare? I’ll be writing about him again soon enough–to keep you posted, to tell you where you can sample his work.
I took most of the past week off from this blog while we were away, and also while I finished my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo–learned a few things along the way, too. First, it is possible to sustain that pace for the better part of four weeks (I was actually done on the 26th)–something like 1800-1900 words/day. Second, while doing so, one can expect to pump out some utterly horrific prose. I got the words down–and will need about 20-30,000 to wrap things up–but the manuscript is a mess. Still: I wrote 52,000 words in 26 days plus all the stuff I did here. I even managed a couple of poems. So I pretty much rocked.
Got the Christmas lights on the house today, too. The girls and I got everything bright and shiny in about 40 minutes–amazing what you can do in a light coat, without wearing gloves, at 23 degrees F. We were motivated. No pix yet, but here’s a stylized shot of our hundred-year old homestead from several years ago. We’ve since gone to LED lights, eliminating that $35 spanking the electric company used to deliver each December, when we were using the giant, old-fashioned C-9’s. Highly recommend the LED’s.
So, that’s where I’ve been. How about you?
Clomping down the stairs,
No strength to glance back again
Steel storm door hissing closed
Lug-soled boots bang torden!
On the dry pine treads.
Yank on a soft scarf, spun around,
Teeth crack against teeth
Tongues hungry tentacles,
Roots seeking soil,
It’s snowing hard outside, blowing
Sideways, windows clatter
Your thigh insisting between mine,
Cold hands beneath your sweater
Growl when you flinch and shriek
thumbs forward, Fingers pressed
into the soft of your back
clench your hips,