October rain

Sat, 10/22/2011 - 3:44pm
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We are on the edge of the green rain on the radar screen. Never mind that water is sliding down my windows in sheets, on the radar we are on the image captured 15 minutes ago when the storm was nipping the south bluffs and moving on a northward track. The forecast for tonight is “rain showers,” an upgrade — if I choose to believe it, which I will, despite knowing better — an upgrade from today’s “rain.”

It is October and it always rains in October. It rains most months but in October it feels especially gray, diminishing the sunshine that is less and less every day, 2 minutes 36 seconds less tomorrow. This precipitation is unlike spring rain, which stirs the earth and falls in ever lengthening days.

A day of 62-degree rain in April would not be so dreary, but in April the sun would not be rising just after seven and setting just before six.

Earlier, my cousin called from Massachusetts and as we talked I leaned on the windowsill, watching the western sky with a hope that had no foundation, looking for breaks in the clouds, waiting for the sober gray sky to turn silver.

My cousin is the oldest of our generation, and as winter lurks he is blue, bemoaning the fact he cannot walk as he used to, miles though the woods — the woods, he sadly notes, that are less and less. Which is bothering him more, I ask, his aging bones or the loss of the forest? It is the latter, he readily admits, and I know he thinks of his grandchildren and theirs, who will never know the land he has, the sanctuary of the trees still there not so many miles away from developed streets. It is worse, he says, at this time of year, when the leaves fall off and he can no longer pretend the big houses are not there on the other side of the greenery.

I am tempted to tell him he sounds like a tree hugger, but I know it will only launch him into a talk on the way man is destroying the earth. My cousin, a solid conservative, is one of the reasons I hold the talk radio crowd, pretenders most of them, in such disdain. He was the young marine who was stationed in Japan and to this day speaks of the beautiful country he loved, not of the place that was bombed during his father’s war. He was a Raytheon engineer who embraced computers and then came to worry about the technology that was isolating people. He is always telling me of some place or thing nearby that he thinks isn’t well enough known, today the Southwick Zoo.

It is unlike most zoos, he says; it is not sad. They even have a tiger.

He has not been listening to the news today, I realize, he has not heard of the horror in Ohio: of tigers, Bengal tigers, among other “exotic” animals, that were held in a questionable manner, released and shot by local law enforcement unable to contain them as darkness fell. My facts are sketchy; I do not want to breach the topic.

Later, I search for news, certain what I have been hearing is missing some key piece, that this story cannot be true. The first article I click open brings up a photograph of tigers lying dead. It all looks like some dreadful, sick joke, or the yard of a black market taxidermist.

It was all extraordinarily sad, some crazy self-made zoo out in rural Ohio. Perhaps better to have a quick death after a brief freedom than a life incarcerated by a mad man. But tigers, Bengal tigers, so many lost.

Six hours later it is still raining. The puddles that were almost dry after last week’s rain are full to overflowing, the road is gullied where the swiftest of the water ran, a by-product of the oil applied a few weeks ago. It can be confusing, the rain and the wind, and there is a gull — a young one, molted gray — at the corner, just standing, uncertain where he should be headed.

There were a number of them on the beach below Jerry’s Point the other day, all big and white and making me think of that old movie, where birds came in great swarms and attacked whatever they could. Visitors mention it, especially when they have just been to the North End in nesting time and the gulls are protective. It amazes me that a simple movie could still be influencing fears, decades after it first appeared on the screen in black and white.

The rain comes and goes, it beats against the windows, then it ceases and the harbor lights shine bright. I think of the beach the other day, dry but covered at its edges with the refuse of rain, dried grass clippings in particular, that had been carried down the path and spewed out on the sand. At first I had thought it was the reach of a very high tide that had tossed wave-worn seaweed up into the wrack line. But it was all come from land, grass and twigs of a late-season mowing carried by the rain turned to rushing rivulets.

It is October and there are the best of days still, sunny and warm and windy enough to dry up almost all the rain, but a good forecast is never for more than a short span of sun.

I dreamt not of Mandalay but of a moon shining behind silver rimmed clouds, triumphing. I think it was a dream, but it may have happened, when I came home well after dark and looked up from the leaf strewn walk. It doesn’t really matter, reality and fancy have melded together like that cake left out in the rain.

The silver specter of a clearing sky, real or not, has invaded my dreams.