Walk #14: Rain

I wake to the sound of rain, tapping lightly on the window behind the bed like the tip of someone’s finger, a gentle tempo, familiar and sedative. This is a soft rain, misty and tender. It might be enough to delay a walk, yet it might be just right for one. I wonder if Sam hears it like I do; if she contemplates it like I do. She must know it’s raining. But unlike me I doubt that she is calculating what it may mean. For her, there will be a walk, regardless.

I latch Sam’s leash and walk out into the world the rain has blurred. And there is that smell—musty, earthy. Petrichor is what it’s called. A couple of Australian scientists gave the smell of rain a name. The air is proven to be cleaner, fresher. The drops catch pollutants in the air, snatch bacteria and dander. Sam raises her snout. She smells it, too. I consider going back inside for a hat, but dismiss the thought. The rain is vaporous and fine. The kind the Irish don’t even acknowledge. Dubliners would not call this a rainy morning. Sam must be Irish. For her, it is only weather, it is only what has been given us. In the drizzle now, she is entirely aware of it, but she knows better than to complain, for she knows we are powerless and it’s better to embrace it.

There is a pool of water near the walkway to the street. It must have rained all night. I step around it but Sam steps through it, the water to her elbows. I thought I saw her smile. We walk west and then south and for several blocks there is no one. Soon, a woman emerges from a cottage-like home with a garden for a front yard, droplets weighing down heavy leaves and bending flowers. Her umbrella is red and it reminds me of watercolor paintings of lovers walking in Paris in the rain. Sam spots her and watches her move south at a hurried pace. I can see only the umbrella now, the hem of a dress, the black of her shoes. And at the corner, there are two utility workers, each wearing a hardhat and yellow vest who watch her walk by. They’re beginning work on a new drainage line along the street. There is already mud on their jeans. Sam pulls me toward one of the men. She wants to say hello. But the man ignores us. The rain has dulled his spirit, it seems. I wonder if people like to be unhappy in the rain.

Sam is not unhappy. Her paws are soaked. The drizzle has dampened the fur on her back and head, and it hangs heavier now over her eyes. But there is a strut in her step, as we get closer to the train crossing. She is aware of what the rain has revitalized. Again, I think I see her smile.

Some dogs hate the rain. Won’t go out in it. Not even to pee. Owners have to pull them on their leashes into backyards and courtyards, the dogs resisting as vigorously as possible. They shake their paws in disgust when they reenter the home. It’s a wretched event, but not for Sam. She knows one cannot sleepwalk through rain. She knows rain waters your soul; it awakens something.

To the left at the street corner near the train is a village fountain. Two ducks sit in the water pool. In the parkway grass, a robin picks at the earth for there are worms coming to the surface. And in the mulch of a park’s garden, mushrooms have appeared, growing in the damp and brief overnight hours, some shaped like tiny brown umbrellas and others like pink asparagus, each emerging from the shredded bark. The rain has aroused the living. This must be why Sam is so mindful. It’s the nature of things in the rain.

I tie Sam’s leash around a bench outside a small coffee shop near the train station. Sam stands in the sprinkles and watches me through the door, greeting others who enter and exit.

“She’s like a troll,” says the breaded man sitting at the round table near the front. He eats a brown muffin and drinks coffee from a ceramic mug. “Protecting the bridge,” he adds, smiling.

“And in the rain,” I say. “I guess trolls like the rain, too, huh?”

“You can’t be angry with the rain,” the man says, sipping from his mug.

I buy a black coffee and a butterscotch muffin. The rain remains light, almost stopped. We walk north on the main street and find another bench under the awning of a small antique shop. Traffic is picking up. A young woman walks by quickly, talking on her phone. “It’s probably the rain,” I hear her say to someone on the other end. I sit and open the white bag, pull off a small chunk of muffin, and feed it to Sam. She is wet around her mouth and I feel it on my fingers. I rub her long ears. They, too, are wet. She sits in front of me and I feed her another bite, as the rain falls on the tips of my shoes.

“A little walk like this deserves a treat,” I say to Sam and give her one more piece of muffin.

But I wonder if the treat for her is less the muffin and more the rain.  She has not wavered once from her walk. She has not tried to find shelter. She has not ducked under a tree. Even now she is on the wet side of the protective awning. I’m dry; she’s catching the drizzle. It makes no never mind to her. And she is still smiling, as dog’s smile, for there is a reason kids jump in puddles, isn’t there? And when we are home and I use an old towel to rub Sam’s paws dry and pat the dampness away from her ears and tail, I am reminded of the wonderful smell of wet dog, oil and water merging, a scent that some find unpleasant, but not me, not today. For the musty perfume that surrounds me is the smell of happiness, of freedom, of acceptance, the evidence of a good morning in the rain.

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