A light rain has been falling since yesterday. Sometimes it comes down harder, other times as just a mist, but all the time it is grey, and desperately humid so that just walking across the yard when it isn’t raining my face still gets wet, my clothes damp. The wood screen door sticks when it is this humid, and the windows wet so that seeing outside is more difficult if the air conditioning runs.
I walked up the driveway earlier, and on the four hundred foot stretch I passed a box turtle which has lived at the first turn for quite some time. He was crossing the stones toward some brush between the driveway and the field. And in the field was a rabbit, nibbling on the ends of some wet weeds. The rain seems to bring everyone out. In fact, down the hill and on past the marsh to the river is a slow-driving zone right now because of all the turtles pushing themselves from one side of the road to the other.
At one of the apple trees out front a large doe chewed on some grass and then bolted her head upright, her ears forward, her tail up, when she saw me. I snuck past without her running away, and after I was inside she put her head back down to finish lunch. There aren’t that many apples on the ground yet, even though the squirrels have found them out on the branches. The apples are small, a bit larger than a golf ball, and green. In a few weeks they’ll be large enough for some of the weaker ones to fall to the ground and the deer will have at them, if the squirrels haven’t worked their way through them yet. I’m not counting on any for myself—I’ll head to the Great Value in the village for some Macintosh; squirrels hardly ever get into Great Value.
But to the rain: I’m glad for it, not solely because it helps the weeds I like to call the front lawn, but the flowers, the garden, the herbs, all could use a good steady soaking, but also because I can work at my desk on overdue and newly started projects. I have had a few essays waiting for final edits just sitting here, and I got them done today, and my son and I are going through the Siberian pictures to find a few dozen which will end up in the middle of the book scheduled for release in a year. Now is the time, though, when it is raining, and now those are ready to be sent. Those who know me well can watch it rain and know I must finally be getting something done.
The issue, though, is when it is not raining, no matter the temperature, I do not have enough discipline most of the time to sit and get the work done; I must be outside. It is my addiction, and I’ll leave the pile of work no matter how well it is going for a hit of some sunshine anytime. Usually after I’ve had my fix I can sit back down, but not right away as I mosey about the property or down the hill to the river to watch the gulls and osprey. There is certainly something timeless about them, perhaps since I’ve watched their peaceful and engaging flights since I’m a child, and doing so feels eternal, like if I concentrate hard enough, it could be just about any time I want it to be.
Ironically, the same thing happens at my desk. One essay before me now concerns an evening walk in Norway some twenty-five years ago, and when I am engaged in the pages I am nowhere to be found in 2021; the miraculous transporting quality of narrative and place eradicates all other references, all other intrusions, so that it is quite actually then and there for me. I love that fluidness of writing; it is how I know something is working. It is not unlike being engaged in a book and losing track of time and place, or the “virtual reality” as Susan Langer defined it in the 1940s that happens in theatre or cinema, when our own reality evaporates and is temporarily replaced by whatever reality the writers, directors, actors, and cinematographers want our reality to be. For me, today, I’m just north of Bodo, Norway, on a snow-covered trail at 4am, just me and my colleague Joe, and ahead of us a moose crosses the trail, and above us bands of green borealis bounce so it seems we can touch them. When I sit back in my chair, it can take a few seconds to return to the here and now. That’s the miracle of time travel that somehow circumvents Einstein’s premise—writers have been doing it for centuries.
Or, instead, when the clouds break,
I go outside and walk down the hill to the river, and the constant that is nature teases me into other times, some here, some in other states, even other countries I have been, and I am able to come closer to who I truly am, the one no one knows, and only one or two have ever met, because it is the ultimate form of “you had to be there.”
Today, here and now, the deer is still lunching on the tall, wet weeds, and I’m sure up on the field so is the rabbit. Above me on the skylight the rain is steady, and the sky grey, and on days like this I can set aside my addiction and get some work done. For now.