Wednesday, July 30, 2003

It's raining. No mere piddle-piddle, but an actual early morning shower that is soaking the ground and streaming down the gutters. For several days we have lived in heated, muggy anticipation, watching thunderheads amass and dispel, smelling the rain, but never feeling it. Yesterday I considered driving with the boys to the mountains, pursuing the clouds until we met with a good down pour, thunder too.

The summer after I graduated from high school I joined my mom and Hans on a drive to Cuyamaca. Hans was going to lead us on an afternoon hike. He has always had a great interest in nature, and stamina for physical exertion; he can also be extremely persuasive, which explains why mom and I agreed to hike to the peak of Cuyamaca. In all honesty it is not a tough climb. I think most of it was on a fire road, but I did rely rather heavily on Hans' motivational speeches along the way. And he was right, the climb is worth while. We reached the peak, where there is a tower and a fantastic view, and we watched the sky as the great billowing mountain clouds gathered and darkened.

The start of a rainstorm can be such a delicate, subtle thing. The first drops were like a whisper on my bare shoulders. The dry, hot ground evaporated the first thousand water droplets, and we could smell the dusted steam rising off the earth. We casually acknowledged it was time to head down. Time to stroll down the mountain. We weren't twenty yards into our descent when the clouds cut loose with a torrent of cold, wet, shirt clinging, denim soaking rainwater. We could not get any wetter, but that didn't stop the rain. It was running down the fire road too, in little rivers, carrying sticks and leaves, making mud. It made our shoes slosh and slog. It made my glasses useless.

The rain and the wind were cold, and when it began to hail it was even colder. The hail was a surprise, novel. Then it became painful, a lot. We were totally pelted, and though we could laugh at the way our mild hike had become a cold, wet, race to the car, we were starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed. "Somewhat overwhelming" is how I describe a situation that is exciting, but that you wish were packaged with an agreement from God that you will get home alive.

We had had enough of the hail and chose to take shelter from the elements in the manzanita and beneath the tall pines. About this time the lightening began shattering the darkness. There was so much energy in the air, screams were forced from our throats like direct current. We charged out from under the trees, that stood in the forest like kindling and lightening rods. We charged out and back into hail and rain and wind.

On the way up I remember wishing it weren't so hot, that I had worn shorts instead of jeans, that we had food with us, that I were a more fit hiker, that we could stop for more rests. Basically I was a silent but dedicated whiner. On the way back I was fleet of soggy feet. I was screaming and laughing and running. I was super saturated with water, but not in the mood to stop for relief. We were fast. We were exhilarated, which means "freaked out, yet sorta liking it." We were motivated, which means "you've got no choice, so get moving. Now."

Looking east, when thunderheads are rolling up from the mountain tops, I can hear our voices, and feel the shift, the heat turning cold, the parched air saturating with water, our pace quickening. I know our tracks are still there, in the muddy earth beneath the pine trees, and our laughter is still running down the old fire road. I think of these things when it rains in Summer.

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