The rain has been relentless today. Its slapping the roof was the background noise of my waking up; its pattering on the concrete outside my classroom was the background noise of my last first class of the semester; its accumulation on the roads hissed me home after office hours. For the most part, it's seemed to be a hard and steady rain, rather than fast bursts or the kind of light fall we had at the end of last week. But because it won't let up, it's accumulating: lawns are oversaturated, and even my front porch's concrete floor is gathering puddles. I'm living in an experiment now, too; because the roofing guys never returned to put new gutters on the house last week, I live in a gutterless structure. I'm curious to find out what (if anything) that will mean for the house, as the rain keeps falling.
Last winter, when I was home for the holidays (after the Academic Mayhem), my family's town flooded. My mother and I went out for lunch before the flood waters crested and found ourselves agape in the car as we passed water where we'd never seen water before. Most of the roads leading to town became impassable, so that people were left taking hour-long detours to drive what would normally take ten minutes.
Over the weekend, on my way to Cleveland to see a play that I'm still meditating on a response to, I noticed standing water in field after field. (I also saw hayricks; the fantastic things that crop up in winter fields will have to be a topic one of these days, particularly since the fields about a mile from my house grew some particularly interesting mounds while I was away this month.) One thing that I do love is to see standing water sitting clear and calm in an unexpected place on a bright (though not necessarily sunny) day; the shards of sky that end up on the ground in those circumstances are fleeting delights. Driving along the back roads that lead to the interstate, I kept seeing farm ponds, as well--a larger manifestation of those less predictable reflective spots of standing water. This weekend's ponds were all on the brink of no longer being frozen; they all had a greeny glaze to them, the thinness of their surface ice and the continued swell and rise of the water underneath visible from the road. I found myself thinking, over and over, of a Wendell Berry poem that did some important emotional work for me about a decade ago--and now, to my chagrin, I can't put my hands on the poem. It only has six lines. The first one is "Did I believe I had a clear mind?" The poem's central image is one of ice at once covered by running water and barely covering turbid darkness. Somehow, it's not nearly as grim as my description may make it sound. The fact that I can't find it in my cigar box of poems suggests that I've had it hanging about somewhere in more recent years; undoubtedly, I'll turn it up when I find the stash of photographs and quotations that I kept in front of me while I wrote my dissertation.
I'm thinking about these slow and steady accumulations tonight, before making the daily decision that it's all right for me to go to bed now, because of the change in rhythm that going into a new semester always occasions. This semester, the changes are even greater than I'm used to, for all manner of curricular and extracurricular reasons. By the end of last semester, weeks were flying by with frightening rapidity; I'd go to bed on Sunday and wake up to find it was Friday morning already, and while I was relieved that another week was over, I was also shocked that it was gone. The end result was that by mid-December I was not unlike those farm ponds, or the speaker in that Berry poem.
I've finally turned up the poem:
Did I believe I had a clear mind?I always get lost in that last image, and yet it always seems inscrutably perfect. I'm still meditating on fast growth, reluctant rest, the accretion of noise and nurturance; so many things are flowing and flown, flux and fluidity for me right now.
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see what I thought
was the light is part of the dark.
And, just as I'm about to stop, the rain's pounding does, as well, changing over to the metallic hiss of what the meteorologists said was coming: sleet, then snow. I'll wake up to a landscape covered over and changed once again.
source for today's image: Washington State Magazine Online