(image courtesy of treknature.com)
The view out my office window is toward the road, though you’d hardly know that for the intervening trees. I hear the occasional vehicle (what a lovely word that is: occasional) and sometimes glimpse the quick slip of movement as it passes the end of our driveway (especially if they have their headlights on), but for the most part it’s easy to forget the road even exists. Quite a difference from the four-lane expressway we lived on for so long.
“Do you like your new house?” people ask. I do, but the first words out of my mouth are usually “It’s quiet.” That’s not a complaint, but a grateful prayer. After the bombardment of sound from Route 32 — jake-break trucks, pounding stereos, roaring motorcycles, blaring horns, and weekly fender-benders — this is bliss almost beyond comprehension. It’s not silent here — far from it — but the difference is so extreme that it may as well be.
It’s raining this morning. Not a “turd-floater” (words used by a friend’s father to describe a downpour), but what the farmers of my ancestry called a “soaker.” It’s a thing to nourish the soil without cutting runnels in the turf or carrying away bits of sod. It’s not the sort of thing (touch wood) to flood basements.
I don’t mind the rain. I love the way it scents the air, different with the turn of each season. Warm earth and growing things; worms; the dusky odor of leaf mould; the mineral tang of winter. Rain strikes me not as a thing to belabor, but a thing to celebrate. I’ve lived on the other end of a well gone dry. I know the frightening, dusty clank of an empty pipe.
I’ve experienced flood as well (on a minor scale, nine inches of water in a basement once upon a time), but that was circumstantial — torrential rain combined with frozen soil. It was hardly the rain’s fault. I would probably feel differently if I lived in an area where heavy flooding was the norm. I imagine for those folks, the first drop brings their heads up in a primal motion to smell the air and scan the sky. What comes here?
In this new house, I can actually hear the rain, something I didn’t realize was missing in the old place. Not only can I hear it, I can differentiate one sound from the next. The faint pat against the leaves of the red maple outside my window. The sharper tap of drops falling from the roofline to the planking of the front deck. A muffled drumming, like fingertips soft against a table-top, where the rain hits the lawn. Splatters against window glass. The gurgle in the downspout. I’d forgotten that rain has many voices. It’s nice to be reminded.
A doe has just come into view, grazing the verge along the left-hand side of the driveway. Now a second one joins her! Their coats are dun and grey against the green grass, the undersides of their tails white trimmed with black, flipping back and forth in seeming contentment as they contemplate the rose bushes. Here comes a third! She’s larger than the others. Is this their mother? I’d heard from the former owners of the property that a set of twins were born this spring. Is this them? Now they’re over the stonewall and onto the neighbor’s lush lawn. There’s better grazing there, I’m sure, but they’ll come back through when they’re ready to bed down in the woods.
Will they listen to the rain as they fall asleep tonight? Will they think of it as I do or pay it no mind, merely duck their heads beneath their flanks and shut their eyes to the fall of drops against their oily hides? Will they pause a moment to lift their noses to the wind and smell the change that’s coming, the hint of snow that’s predicted to the north? Will it mean anything to them?
Probably not. Unlike us, deer, I suspect, live in the Now. They don’t think of what was or worry about what might be. Their acceptance of the world is total, uncolored by like or dislike. They make no plans. If food and water are available, they eat and drink. They sleep when and where they can. Hunted, they flee and sometimes fall. Their acceptance is total.
I can’t decide if I envy that or not.