Saturday, April 02, 2005


It was supposed to rain all day, hard. It did rain this morning -- I woke to the ping ping ping of rain on the air-conditioner housing. The old bedspread I'd draped there to muffle the sound of raindrops must have slipped partway off. The other day I'd wakened to a mourning dove duet, a two bird antiphonal set a minor third apart. The second voice came from a distance, like a degraded echo. The first was close and loud. It was 5 am. "Damn bird," my husband muttered.

The rain stopped mid afternoon, but the world stayed sodden and dark. I checked a weathermap, and, assured of a rainless spell, went down to the river with my camera.

The river was full and loud, and had flooded its banks. In places, it swamped the path. The air rang with goose calls and birdsong. Trash from upstream spun caught in the tall weeds and bridge trestles. It was completely windless, and branches were heavy with water droplets. The clouds and rain had darkened the landscape by several shades since I'd last seen it. This little piece of the world had utterly transformed. It looked bruised, brooding, intense, full. Suffused. All the colors were different. The path was deserted.

Some unexpected churchbells tolled in the distance, sounding oddly like a boy falling out of the sky.

I walked and looked, taking pictures, listening, nearly drunk with pleasure. I considered swooning. The brindled, waxen swallowwort pods seemed to glow; strong, fresh, green blades and leaves were thrusting up between the composting groundcover of wet, skeletal leaves; the aspen catkins were insanely swollen, almost feathery. All around me the last stages of death and the earliest stages of life walked hand in hand.

As the rainless spell lengthened, other people appeared on the path. A slender young man with binoculars greeted me with news of a "peregrine falcon" perched on an antenna. A large, bearish man in a woolen cap wanted to know whether I'd seen the "rare black duck" right around that bend.

"That small slate gray creature with the white bill ? That's a coot !" I said.

This is the antiphonal human song of the riverbank --

Look !

Yes !

Later I learned that, in a room far away from the rain-soaked path, a strong, imperfect voice had fallen into silence. The air still reverberated a little. I felt oddly bereft. Orphaned. Something that sounded oddly like Papa ! rose to my lips.

Who among so-called "world leaders" would speak, really speak, now for peace and justice ?

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