Outdoor Adventure: Slowing down to enjoy the rain
I have learned to take comfort on rainy days when dawn brings grayness and haze settles on the land as a heavy blanket. Often, before I rise, I sense the air; humid and full and rich; even before I open my eyes I know what I will see. I will rise from bed, peer out the window onto a world dimmed of light and in that I feel a calmness for on a morning heavy with dampness all urgency fades as if smothered by the weight of the cloud.
On such mornings heavy cloud lies low, mingles with tree-top until one cannot distinguish one from the other. If it has rained, sidewalk and street are dark; passing car light reflects off the wetness. If it is still raining the droplets dimple the puddles; tree leaves dance under light impact of rain.
At times in the darkness before what will pass for dawn I hear the rain fall and I lie in bed and listen for the wind. If I hear the trees rustle I know the rain is driven to the ground by breeze. If I do not hear the wind I know the rain is falling straight down; a soaker.
A storm that is driven by the wind is like my dogs as they hunt; a flurry of movement, scattered sound, action and motion all around. A steady rainfall, a soaking rain, moves like my cat; patient, no wasted motion or energy, methodical. If the rain rides on thunder and lightning that animate the darkness, at those times my dogs come to the bed, nervous; I feel their heft on the bed, hear their breathing.
Riika will go to the window though there is not much she can see; Thor holds back, head up and alert; Fenway pays attention, takes his cue from Thor. When they are satisfied that things are manageable we all settle down and fight for space on the bed.
Then at dawn I will wake, swing legs over the edge of the bed and see what the world brings. And it is a cloudy, heavy day I have found that I can take comfort. For on those days the pace of life eases. On a morning of gray dawn where the eastern sky is thick with cloud and the air burdened with humidity or rain, on those days the world slows down and seems more manageable. On the rainy mornings or daybreak hidden by haze, on those days nothing moves fast; in such there is comfort.
On a cloudy, rainy day one pulls in expectations, tamps down possibilities. On a clear, sunny day in the waning weeks of summer there is a drive to do too much, to take on endless tasks and push from dawn to dusk and now, as sundown comes earlier, beyond. It can be rewarding, yes; but also exhausting and too often we never feel we do enough on those days; frustration comes down with nightfall as we think of things undone.
On a rainy day we back off. Rainy, cloudy mornings bring a slow cup of coffee; another. Breakfast at a leisure pace. Extra time to start slowly for there is no need to rush. It all brings a calmness and peace of mind.
A long time past when I ran distance, bicycled crazy and wild and free, skied long and hard, at that time I sat with a ski coach, former head of the Olympic team. We talked of summertime training for in those days ski season never really ended and he noted that in summer a rainy day was a good thing; on a rainy day you had to slow down and in that slowing down you rested and recharged and came out of if better for so doing.
I remember that all these years now. Now I find comfort on the rainy days of summer.
There’s an old saying in the outdoor business, the handiwork of some PR firm that was hired to promote some high-tech (which is often shorthand for “overpriced”) rainwear and it goes, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”, the implication of which is that you should buy their rain coat and get outside in the rain.
I’ve modified that old saying a bit to fit more of what I think which now is “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad attitudes” and so I take the rain as it is and if I want to go outside I’ve got my rain jacket but if I want to stay inside I’ll do that and not whimper about the rain. Having a good attitude about things is more important than having a jacket and if you spend time in Wisconsin you’d better learn to roll with the weather, the rain now and soon enough the snow and cold.
So on a rainy day this past week on my day off I stayed inside most the day and had a good day and when I did go out I had a rain jacket that shed water like a duck’s back.
Those rainy days of comfort and ease, of relaxation and rest and recharging, we need to have those; we need to welcome then. But remember there is another benefit to a rainy day: It makes us treasure the sunny days all the more.
Spend a day inside, nose pressed to the window, watching the world through rain-blurred glass, do that and yes, you will relax, but come the sun and you will feel as if you are most fortunate. For if it is true that into each life some rain must fall, so true is it that into that same life some sun must shine.
After the rainy day the morning dawned under sun; the air was dry; humidity had passed. We rode the Bearskin Trail on bicycles under a blue sky on a day that reminded me of coming autumn. We stopped for lunch, felt the sun warm us with the heat of August; then rode back home.
On the next evening another ride, on backroads under shade of green trees that arched over the blacktop, out into farm fields, amber under late sun, over rivers, past lakes, on roads that wound and twisted as if in no hurry to get to the end. Rested from the day of rain, feeling strong and good and alive. I rode a 20-mile loop, out and around; wind at my face then at my back; sun behind casting shadow ahead of me; then sun in my eyes as I came back to town. Ahead were houses.
Then something in the road, small animals; one, another, three and four and I thought, Cats, for they were light on their feet but no, not cats, there was something different about them.
They were foxes, four of them. Two, the last ones, stopped in the road, confused; looked at me then turned and sprinted for cover. I pulled up, stood over the bicycle, looked to the right.
In the late afternoon light stood the adult fox, gray color phase not red, stood there in the rich green grass that was freshened by the rain of the earlier day, stood there and watched me and the soft golden light of near-dusk shone on it and the fox looked at me and I looked at the fox and for that moment all was still.
Then the fox turned and ran into cover and was gone and I lifted back onto the saddle and went my way, into the glow of the lowering sun, the sun that always shines after the rain falls.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.