Today, I went on a run in the rain through my neighborhood park, Laurelhurst. I hadn’t been running in the neighborhood in quite some time and was craving the dark tunnels of trees that overhang the paths down the street from my house. The air was still warm-ish and humid, reminiscent of the hot stickiness that are summers in the South. The trees were already dripping with the sprinkle in the air and the paths were dark and quiet. A few other runners and walkers ventured out as well, drawn to the quiet of a city park in the rain. As I circled Firwood Lake, the descending sun in the West lit the water from behind, reflecting back tall, stately trees and pinpricks of raindrops, disturbing the quiet, still lake surface. My body was in motion after a day spent writing, my lungs opened up, and my shirt was cool and wet against my shoulders.
As you may have noticed, I have taken a bit of a hiatus from this blog. Not intentional, mind you, but I have had a lot going on lately. In August, I traveled to the East Coast, where I experienced New York City, Rochester, and Western North Carolina, visiting with good friends and family. I did some writing there but never found the time to post. When I returned, I started right back into work, after a well deserved and beautiful summer off. And so here I am, on the “other side,” so it seems. I’ve been working hard on a few writing projects that I’ll be able to unveil soon. I’ve spent weekends in Hood River and biking around Portland. It’s the third week of school and we’re just starting to get to know the kids. We spent a week at Camp Westwind as we did last year, drinking in sun-warmed sand, ocean breeze, and the smell of salt in the misty air. Us teachers spent our last night there nursing 8 of our kids through a sleepless hours of stomach flu. And then here we are. Week 3. Summer over. Fall upon us. The leaves in Laurelhurst Park are beginning to fall, soggy in the late-summer mist. The windows in my bedroom have been open for 3 months straight but there is a chill in the air that tells me that someday soon I will have to close them at night. But in the meanwhile, most of the days are still warm and sunny and I’m hoping to continue harvesting my tomatoes.
When fall returns to the Pacific Northwest, sometimes it’s hard to notice the change in the leaves. It’s usually rain, rain, rain, that sends us inside to candlelight and roasted squash. The leaves fall and immediately run into the gutters, collecting in soggy piles. Rain has been on my mind a lot lately. As a cleanser, as a bringer of life, as a metaphor for tears and grief. When I was in New York City, days after a weekend congregating in San Francisco in the midst of a family member’s passing away, my first day there was one of rain. Not the rain I know, but a downpour, warmed by the summer air and filling the street gutters with a murky, grey swirl. I embraced it. Took it as a day to sit in a bookstore and write. Let it wash away any tears that had dried on my cheeks. And I wrote a poem about rain. About rain and new beginnings. And I’d like to share it with you, now.
When rain coats the city,
wetting feet and shoulders,
we remember what it’s like to be damp.
To feel grit between our toes
and to step down street corners,
into puddles that lick at our ankles.
The soft rain wants a soft hand,
to touch it,
to caress it,
to welcome it.
Or a soft bed of grass,
to sink into,
to lose itself in.
But sometimes this is not to be.
It must splash onto the top of an umbrella,
or the bleak sidewalk,
dirty and marked with feet.
Or even a gutter,
to join its kin in the eternal pathway,
To be swallowed by the smallest fish
and digested by the largest whale,
who barely notices the extra drop,
as the drop tickles its throat.
And as the rain falls, I feel the softness of books inside the quietness of the store,
books that tell stories
Stories that teach us
that in order to be washed clean,
we must step outside,
into the downpour.