In this story of then, long ago, there are just two of us: a man, wet through, in soaked purple shirt and running shorts, fast-walking through stands of lush trees tossing down by the river; and me, lounging against a stone parapet a hundred feet above him, watching as his fine profile and dark stride disappear into the dense rain.
The weather, from the east-southeast and pretty much right in my face, is heavy and wild. That’s an understatement. Even on the steep slope of this hill, the rainwater runs higher than my ankles.
Four hundred years ago, in the then-wilderness, dozens of stream-threads would have been tumbling down to feed the rising river. This then is not that then. Here, I’m wearing backless sandals, for the rain, and I’m weak. I worry about walking home. I might hydroplane on street asphalt, or slip on curbstones of granite and slate.
A rock-dove flies in, a few feet from my face, making for a cranny in the stone wall that this parapet overtops. The dove’s landing path is long and low, and shows the colors — iridescent blues and greys, creams and a little black — on the undersides of the dove’s wings. Its narrow, overlapping wing-feathers are distinct, against the soft backdrop of the clouds.
The dove’s passage spins out an epic moment, shaped by motion and light: an arc of bird-flight scribbled with curved muscled wings and scalloped feather-edges, traced through the inverted swoops of suspension cables of a sturdy bridge that sits, wet-footed and seemingly small, under a giant’s bow of clouds.
Then the world moves again.
To my right, clouds run below the cliffs opposite. To my left, the bridge makes its own weather, as fog mounts a hill of air hundreds of feet higher than the bridge-towers till, just above me, streams of clouds roller-coaster down.
On the river, where its north curve is lost behind a solid wall of rain, near a red-painted buoy, here comes a graceful sloop, sails down, running on motor.
Cars — usually turning north to enter the highway, or making a u-turn around the little park nearby — are stopping for 20 seconds at the dead-end overlooking the river, held by the stormy view.
Trees on the river — maples, oaks and wild apples wearing grapevine shrouds — are full and round, more so than I’ve ever seen.
The stone walls against which I rest are old and high, and very wet.
The river’s on the ebb now, even in this rain. We all are over-looked by the tall, strong bridge — hello, Brother Bridge. What’s that you say? It’s time I was leaving? Yes, yes.
Then, long ago, I set out for home again. I went with care and fear, and, once there, found myself very shaky and finally willing to be warm and dry again. The only bit of cloth dry enough to wipe the water off my door-keys was a small rain-shadow that my left elbow had made against my waist. Pneumonia sucks: I was so weak. And rain sings: my body and spirit were grateful for the rain.
Long ago, I went out to catch the smell of salt, and to meet you. I was cold and afraid. My feet were almost bare. But the rain had washed the air so sweet…