115. Rainy Day, April, 2012

As refugees from San Diego Susan and I are readily seduced by the magic of a rainy day. There is something womb-like and “snugifying” about the white noise of rain that encourages inwardness, a pause for quiet and reflection.

The weather has been so good (and so warm) that we have been hard at work preparing the gardens. Rainy day jobs, (e.g. hanging window shades, filing a winter’s worth of stacked papers), have had to wait. Now those pleasures seem a perfect fit for this rainy day. When they are done we look forward to a nap, a fireside read, some hot chocolate and then a good movie.

It’s been an uncharacteristically dry spring; until now there has been no water standing in the woods. But the rains began yesterday and promise to continue through tonight. We went to sleep with the sound of a steady, gentle rain on the roof and skylights. This morning the rain is more earnest –- as if determined to reach the prognosticator’s projection that we will receive three inches of this precious moisture for which our gardens, like we, have been yearning. If their predictions are accurate we will receive in these 36 hours a third of San Diego’s annual rainfall. Gusty winds out of the northeast are predicted momentarily.

Now there are whitecaps on the bay. The rain shortens our view, obliterating Mt. Dessert Island and Cadillac Mountain. The horizon is gone; we are adrift in the rain.

When the sky occasionally lightens, intrepid chickadees and gold finches dart to and from our feeders while the song sparrow stands watch over its seaside tangle of huckleberry and juniper.

Soil that was rendered light and fluffy by the winter freeze will be battered back down by this soaker — but not before we have safely planted our morning glories and sweet peas. The former are already showing their heads. Planted more deeply, sweet peas take longer to find their way to the light.

Ferns have emerged in the woods, thrusting up, but not yet unfurling their fiddlehead tops. They are three inches taller this morning than yesterday; they will grow another three inches today and tonight. Incidentally, “fiddleheads” are a local delicacy that can be purchased in the supermarket this time of year. (Some await us even now in the refrigerator.) They are typically harvested by Native Americans who know the right type, (not all emerging ferns are “fiddleheads”), and locations. A quick boil, drained, served with melted butter and a pinch of salt: to me they taste like something between lettuce and cabbage with a hint of brussel sprouts, but to Susan they taste like spring.

Hancock Point and its surrounds are ablaze with forsythia. Because we have not previously been on the Point in April, we have never before seen these otherwise sedate, plain bushes in their party garb. They are perfect harbingers of spring as they blaze against an evergreen background. Yesterday Susan was on Gouldsboro peninsula where she noted a gray frame house with a bright yellow door that she and I have seen many times before. What we had not known is that the plain bushes framing that door in the summer are in fact forsythia. Now, for these few weeks. it is absolutely arresting.

Such discoveries are part of the joy about being here both earlier in the year (April) and latter (November): we see sights that enrich our vision during the summer. We will never again see that yellow door, even in August, without seeing the forsythia in bloom.

The world is always more complex then our first view reveals. We have to watch awhile, see the whole cycle. I used to say the same thing to my academic colleagues as they undertook new assignments: step back, be patient, see the whole board. Our polyvalent world reveals itself only when we have seen it from many angles. Once comprehended, each facet reflects/reveals/enriches the whole. We had a similar experience this past winter in San Diego. We had lived there for 15 years, but had never before seen people walking on the beaches on weekday mornings, or mothers with their children in the parks, or old folks (like us) walking dogs. Turns out, not everyone is dressed in business attire and sitting in conference rooms! Who knew?

The same principle guides the discovery of marriage. After the initial wonder of a second toothbrush in the bathroom and the sexual intoxication, a significant “other”, (apt though awkward phrase), begins to emerge. How does he or she disagree? Does he play fair? Does she sulk? What art does she like? What does he read? Does he have a capacity for silence? Can she paddle a canoe? How will he handle disappointments?

And then there is the revelation of parenthood. Where did that come from??? How did she know what to do? to be so calm in the face of emergency? These are facets of self that are unknown, (even to oneself), in the beginning, let alone to a spouse. But through it all a fuller, richer, more complex human being emerges. Once grasped, the silliness of an afternoon giggle is made even more precious by the now-glimpsed depths/complexity that lie behind it. Our polyvalent world will reveal itself only when we have seen it from many angles. Once comprehended, each facet reflects/reveals/enriches the whole.

The day after: the weather gurus were right. The closest weather station to us reported 4.12 inches. As I walked around the Point this morning brooks that usually murmur a friendly gurgle were in full-throated roar; and they had been joined by other streams invented just for the occasion.

A few branches had been blown down onto the dirt road, but my favorite find was a hand-full of “Spanish moss” (actually a lichen) that had been blown off one of the still-bare trees. I took it home to Susan. Like us, the lichen is symbiotic. Unlike our symbiosis, its mutual dependency is one of fungus and algae — a complexity that was not grasped until the time of the civil war. It takes time to see (especially) what is right in front of you. Our polyvalent world will reveal itself only when we have seen it from many angles. Once comprehended, each facet reflects/reveals/enriches the whole.