Whatever it was that we surrendered by turning toward silence, the emptied space was filled with calm for the few moments of our short walk and the long hours of rain that followed.
I had spent a quiet weekend with the dog, venturing out only to get in provisions for several days, then followed the trail home to the cabin in the woods outside of town, bounding back like a leaping white-tailed deer retreating into cover.
Hot though it was, the sun seemed to dictate a hike but I had remained in torpor, like a hibernating bear, under cover, asleep for hours and hours — too long, it seemed, for mid-summer, more suited to January.
Finally, I arose from my sleep-sodden state, pretended to do some chores — throwing in laundry and washing a few dishes but leaving a cascade of unfinished projects to be dealt with at a later time. I pulled on a big old faded work shirt and yoga pants, tugged on a pair of sweat socks and hiking boots, and let the dog work herself into a state of agitation at the thought that we might actually get out into the fresh air.
We made a half-hearted trip to the town dump, only because it seemed appropriate duty for an otherwise misspent Saturday, dropped off my light load of bags, old magazines and shopping circulars, then drove home slowly, stopping briefly at the town fair grounds, a clearing of land with a jogging track and hiking path.
The dog and I stayed off the athletic track and clung to the gravel road that runs like a half moon through the acreage that extends along the Royal River. A steady pattering on the surface popped erratically, offering the illusion of a thousand waterbugs weaving or midges darting down to the water, making the greenish pool at the curve of the river percolate with tiny bubbles.
But it was actually the beginning of the rain, the suggestion of what was to last all evening long. Even so, I stood for a long moment watching the droplets dance on the surface, the light on the oncoming storm giving the landscape a kind of abstract character of a Turner mezzotint, while the rain created a moving pointillism, as sudden a suspension of time and place as art.
It was so hot out that the light rain was like a perfumed mist on my face and over my shirt, which seemed to repel the water altogether, like feathers or scales. So the dog and I took our time ambling back to the car.
She had a lot of territory to reclaim — it had been days since our last visit — and I left her to her ritual, though it seemed unnecessary to me. I was devoid of any feeling of ownership except for feeling of the wonder at the silent dusk encroaching.
The sky went from light to dark, like an uncertain mood moving across an indecisive countenance. But now and then a gleam of setting sun would pierce through the gray like gold, or a silvery shaft would penetrate the clouds.
Back at the car, I lifted the dog’s old arthritic hind end into the back seat, gave only passing heed to her grumbling growl as her hips — heavy as 25-pound sacks of potatoes — were levered onto the seat. She lay down quietly then, the only sound her panting as she waited for water and a dog biscuit. I satisfied all her immediate needs, climbed into the driver’s seat, turned the engine over and navigated home.
We made it back just before the heavy rain began to fall. I fed the dog some leftover chicken and about five pills to keep her epilepsy, thyroid, incontinence and other problems at bay, and led her upstairs to what was at that moment the coolest room of the cabin — a place with cross-currents of wind and a view from the screens of water rivulets running so hard and straight off the roof that they looked like skeins of wool being pulled on a loom.
I stood at the top of the stairs, watching the rain weave a liquid tapestry on the roof and thought for a moment my heart would break with the beauty of the world proceeding unnoticed. I could imagine shoppers hurrying, umbrellas or unprotected, to their cars, paper bags soaked with rain. I could see in my mind the little perculations of the river now pelted into small bowls and rippling circles, no longer suggesting schooling fish, unless they were blues running.
Out in the great woods beyond my windows, the world was green and luscious and lapping up the rain. Everything looked healthy and draped with lacy ferns — a place not yet mapped but full of promise.
For a few minutes in the chaos of the storm, it was the dawn of creation. I was so grateful to be there, to have perhaps a glimpse of the grace that is delivered in a tattered leaf or drop of rain.
Our storm turned out to be a hymn, which is what we always hope for — something familar but neither thundering nor fierce.
We were content with the lullaby of the refuge in the storm, to curl up under covers light as lichen and call it a day, a good day at that.
North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: