Sunday, 19 May
Good Morning Jacob…
As you well know the Carolinas start to get steamy this time of year. It might have something to do with the equatorial bath water to the south, the Gulf of Mexico. More likely, though, it is the fact that summer is fast approaching and anyplace not near a cool ocean breeze is bound to feel sticky. Over the last several days the temperatures have been in the upper eighties and the tens of thousands of trees in this area and all the other plant life here, represented in numbers beyond the ability to count, have from their leaves released to the surrounding air what might be termed a profusion of sweat. The many rivers and streams that drain the area and the lake size pools of captive water nestled about its low slung hills have all relinquished to the heavens a tidal measure of vapor, in submission to the wilting gaze of an unblinking sun. No wonder then that something soon would have to give.
From the first light of day Saturday’s air smelled of the promise of rain. It permeated the house, whose windows were all full open to welcome in the coolness from the previous night. I savored the moment and was somewhat slow getting around. The morning’s coffee was a bit stale, microwave reheated from the previous day. Let nothing be wasted. As I gathered up the dog leash for Jake’s morning walk the sky was a ceiling vague with clouds. Nowhere did I see the troubled patch of darkness that would hint a need for imminent release. As always, Jake danced about, making the clasp of leash to collar a game of snatching the moving target. Nearby, a woodpecker gave off a staccato of machine-like thuds, pelting the trunk of wood with industrial strength stabs, and in the process, battering his brain to early senility.
Mornings are filled with life as everything wild probes their surroundings for breakfast. Beetles walk about the forest litter and are quickly snatched up by sharp eyed robins. Mockingbirds pick apart assorted flying insects and bristle at any intrusion of their hunting ground by another bird intent on stealing from them a quick meal. Squirrels use their exquisite snouts to discover acorns thinly buried, then break apart the earth with sharp claws to reveal the dormant nugget, and quickly dispatch it in a rapid sequence of nibbles. Swallows swoop overhead, vacuuming from the air the graduating class of novice flies, mosquitoes and gnats that most recently earned their wings. It is all a pattern of life that has carried forth unchanged from a time when human forest dwellers of this area gathered together broken remnants of wood, hoping to recreate the magic of cooking with fire.
Jake and I follow a path that runs parallel to tracks that regularly direct trains north through Virginia and south towards Atlanta. We are nearing the halfway point of our walk. I hear the first heavy plinks of water striking the metal roof of a building sitting alone in a field. The rain quickly overtakes us. The drops are first like individual coins breaking into liquid on my shirt. Soon their numbers mount into dense, rattling streaks. Jake shakes his fur furiously. It is of little use. We make our way forward toward a grey cinder-block building and the blue metal awning above its slender door. From there we watch the first deluge pass. Except for the occasional barking of dogs our walk back to the house is uneventful. Once home I scratch Jake’s neck and give him his treat and head inside. It will be a day fitful with cool sessions of rain. It is a moment of happiness. The weatherman says expect more for tomorrow. After Sunday, though, the mercury pops its cork and breaks into the sweltering territory of heat beyond reason, when everyone experiences life as a hothouse tomato.