Rain

We live in a temperate rain forest. Which, of course, means it rains a lot. I remember one year when it rained ninety straight days. Some hated it. Some felt they were mildewing. But I loved it.

I love a hard downpour that drenches everything, that soaks through your hair instantly so you can feel the tiny rivulets running down the back of your ears and neck. The sort of rain that means business and lets you know it.

I love soft rain that mists everything and takes a long time to soak in. I love its gentleness as it sifts over ferns and earth and sits on your shoulders like silvery spiderwebs.

I love how rain allows you to do nothing but sit by the fire with a book, with no guilt.

I love the sound of rain, on roof, under car tires, on leaves of trees, on my skin, my thirsty skin that soaks it up to feed my soul.

So this has been a hard summer. We’ve never had such heat or so many days without the rain we are famous for. I see the parched earth, the stressed trees, the bony river with its skeleton of rocks jutting up through the thin skin of water.

Fire danger is, of course, extreme right now. I think even people who hate the rain are watching the sky for mare’s tails of clouds, hoping to see the streamers drifting in over the mountains.

I know I am.

The wild animals are coming down from high places sooner than usual because there is no water up in the alpine rivers and lakes. We’re used to bears coming through as they get ready for hibernation but this is sooner than normal. Fledgling birds and baby squirrels are dying as they fall out of nests trying to escape the heat. It’s heartbreaking and I fear this is a sign of times to come.

This baby was rescued.

For now I’m sitting in a room with the blackout curtains closed against the heat, looking at photos of water. Craving damp and cool and moss that is green and vibrant rather than brown and parched. Craving a roaring, whitewater river, full of returning salmon.

And a sky full of rain.

Lookout Point

This hiking trail is a bit difficult to find. It’s listed in some trail guides but it’s mainly used by locals. And rock climbers are always in the area although I’m not sure many of them use the trail itself. I’ve been up the trail three times for fun and once for no fun at all when our dog got stuck. This past weekend my husband took three friends up there. I was careful not to give them my opinion of the trail beforehand as I didn’t want to color the experience for them.

View from Lookout. You can see Mt. Index and Bridal Veil Falls, which is another challenging, but beautiful, hike.

Many locals love that trail, my son included. In spite of the steepness, it’s normally well worth the hike for the views from the top of the trail, which are beautiful.

Looking down on the North Fork Skykomish River.

Of the friends who went with my husband, one got sick and had to turn back. One walked that friend out of the woods and then decided to wait at the base of the chute, which is the last three hundred feet or so of the trail. My husband and our friend Dan went all the way to the top. This was more challenging than normal because there has been a slide down the chute.

Looking up from the base of the chute.

So yes, it’s a beautiful hike. Yes, it’s typically difficult, especially the chute. But those aren’t the reasons why I haven’t been up that trail for several years.

Our son, at the top, several years ago.

Those who know me personally know that I’m not a superstitious type. Okay, I might be a little superstitious about writing, but mostly I’m a pretty pragmatic person. I don’t get scared often. But Lookout Point just creeps me out big time.

I’ve never had an emotional reaction to a place like this and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it. But every single time I’ve gone up that trail, I have had a strong thought in my brain telling me I’m not supposed to be there. Have you ever had a moment when your neck hairs stand up and every instinct is telling you that you’ve just made a big mistake? That’s me on that trail.

It’s not the difficulty level because I’ve been up it before. Granted, I doubt I could make it up there now. I’ve done it before and even on the somewhat easier lower portion of the trail, I’m still scared of it.

Our friend, showing the steepness of the chute.

When I wrote This Deep Panic and was trying to imagine the fear characters would feel out in the woods, alone and vulnerable, I dipped into my feelings about this trail. So in a way, the trail helped me with writing.

I strongly believe I am not supposed to be on that trail. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s honest.

Now that there has been a slide in the chute, I have an excuse to say no if anyone invites me to go up Lookout. I won’t have to admit that the place scares me. It’s such a weird thing because, if you know me, I absolutely love the woods. The forest is my home space.

Just not that tiny piece of forest. That trail up Lookout? It doesn’t want me there for some reason, and I plan on listening and honoring that. Even if it does make me sound a little loopy.

I certainly don’t need to go back up it in order to write more scary scenes. My memory will work just fine.

This Man

He sees good where I see bad, beauty where I see not.

He saw me before I saw him.

He can fix anything, solve anything, even if it’s something he’s never done before. He says I exaggerate but I don’t. Need proof? There are too many stories to tell that prove this but I swear, when the zombie apocalypse hits, he’s the one you’re going to want by your side.

He does laundry and dishes and vacuums and is a better cook than me. Well, let me qualify that. He would vacuum if I let him near the vacuum. He’s hard on them.

He’s notoriously accident-prone.

Everyone who has ever been in contact with him believes in what we call ‘Art Karma’. Meaning, if anything can go wrong when he’s in the vicinity, it will. It’s become a bit of a family joke.

He’s tough and masculine and manly…and gets teary watching movies or commercials about dogs in shelters. He’s also not threatened by things other men can be. When I introduced him to a good friend who had a huge crush on him (male) his response later was to tell me it was rather flattering. Our yard is full of his roses.

His musical taste is a bit out there for most people. VNV Nation. Chrom. Assemblage 23. Blutengel. Mind In A Box. AFI. Agent Side Grinder. Empathy Test. But he also likes Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Tannahill Weavers, and Kitaro.

He is a big reader like me and like our son. Books are like old friends for him, so he keeps his favorites and re-reads them, just like I do. The Harry Potter series. The Expanse series. Tolkien. Anything by Heinlein. Any book I recommend. Any book lying around when he wants to read. And if I am reading near him, he likes to hold my hand.

You might not think it looking at that tough exterior, but he’s a soft romantic underneath. I’m not talking flowers here, which wouldn’t appeal to me anyway. It’s in all the little things he does that show how aware he is of what makes me happy, or what I might need. A quick example is when I went through radiation. Some of you know this story, but I had roughly a 45 minute window after getting zapped before vomiting started. Just about long enough to get home if traffic was light. I’d run in the house headed straight for the toilet…and a kneeling pad would be there waiting.

When my heart is broken, when my grief is soul-killing, he holds me and heals me.

And no one else can make me laugh until tears come.

This man. So grateful to the universe for helping him to sneak up on me when I wasn’t looking. I don’t deserve him. And he’s going to be so embarrassed by this post. Little does he know what I’m doing while he’s in the other room reading…