There is an appliance demon hiding in my house. If you’ve been with me for even a short time, you know that my washing machine went out on me about a month ago. Within 24 hours of having it repaired, my dryer died. It took about 10 days and a Jed-Clampett-make-shift-clothesline on my back porch to get through that one with clean underwear.
Today, my dishwasher decided to make a hideous hum followed by a firm refusal to start the wash cycle. I dug around in the labyrinth beneath the sink and found the plug for the sink drain. It was a wash-and-dry-by-hand kind of evening. Which brought back memories of standing at the counter with my mom when it was my turn to dry and put away the dishes. Sometimes you remember that the old ways are still good enough.
You also know that I’m in the middle of a pantry rehab project. Nothing is where it is supposed to be. When I made my lunch for work this morning, I couldn’t find the Ziplock sandwich bags. I hunted on the table next to the island. I moved a few things on the makeshift plywood shelf beneath the table. I looked over in the corner behind the cans of tuna. I had no idea where they were.
I finally dug around beneath the cabinet and found a box of sandwich bags that Beth had kept for the grandkids. So, today, a 65-year-old grown man took his ham and cheese sandwich to work in a Disney baggy from the movie Frozen. Elsa was a big hit with the guys. I lost all credibility as a leader of men.
When I finished washing the dishes, I could hear the rumble of thunder outside. It had been hinting at rain since about 4:00 this afternoon. Max was also pacing the floor and drooling. His canine barometer is never wrong. A sure sign that the rain was about to begin.
My evenings are seldom the same these days. I had a lot more routine when Beth was around. Now it seems like I’m always searching to figure out what to do with myself. I wasn’t in the mood to go out to the shop tonight. I didn’t feel like TV just yet. I thought about playing a little music, but that didn’t suit me either. So, I just walked out on the front porch to sit for a spell.
When I opened the front door, I was greeted by the sound of a soft rain falling in the last fading hour of the day. There is something therapeutic about the sound of rain. There was no wind. This was not one of those gully washers that cleans out the ditches down through the woods to the creek. Just a slow and steady pitter-patter.
I ease down into the cushion of my fake wicker chair. Max is on leash in case a clap of thunder tries to send him on a three-mile run. He lays down on the porch floor next to me with his nose buried between his front paws. Poor guy. His shoulders are trembling like the whole earth is shaking. Which is the exact opposite of how this rain settles in on me. There’s a peaceful, easy feeling in this rain. And there’s not even a billion stars all around.
There are a few rains from my growing up years that I remember like this one. One in particular, on a lazy summer evening. I was in my bedroom doing kid stuff. The window cranked wide open because it was hot, and the miracle of air conditioning had not yet made its way into my dad’s fundamentally conservative way of thinking. I could hear the rain thumping off the broad leaves of the Mulberry tree outside my window in the back yard.
I walked into the den where my folks were sitting. Mom cutting coupons from the Sunday AJC. Dad in his recliner. His bare feet propped up and a book in his hands. The TV was on. Probably a game show like the Price is Right. Half paying attention. Half just occupying the time.
I stepped around the corner. “I’m going down to the barn for little while.”
My mom only briefly looked up. “Well, don’t stay too long.”
There was no protest about going out in the rain. No helicopter-hovering concerns about not getting wet and dying of pneumonia. No questions about what I was up to. It was like it was the most normal thing in the world for a boy to go out for a walk in the rain.
I climbed up in the loft and pulled a bale of hay close to the wide opening. I sat on the loose hay on the floor and leaned back against that bale. My legs crossed at the ankles in front of me. And I just watched the world for a while out my “window.”
The sounds on my front porch right now are exactly like the sounds in the hay loft then. In this moment, there is a connection to the past. It feels, I don’t know, gratifying to know that some things don’t change. Maybe it’s true of us all, but I need something constant in the undercurrent of my living. Something from the past that informs and stirs my present. Even just a simple sound that embraces the soul with a forgotten memory.
Tonight, there’s a bit of heaven dripping slowly off the roof, tapping the foliage of the Cast Iron plants beneath the Crepemyrtle at the end of the porch. The leaves of the oak in the front gently bowing and dancing in the rhythm of the music. The grey sky and the distant rumble. The aroma of wet earth.
I have been in some horrendous rainstorms before. A different barn in another man’s loft. I was leading a bunch of Jr. High kids on a backpacking trip through southern Ohio. Deep ravines. Hemlock. Sheer rock faces that rose 40ft up through the canopy. We didn’t have cell phones back then. The weather changed abruptly on us right after we had set up camp by this farmer’s lake. It was so quick and so violent that we only had time to run for shelter inside the barn. And from the loft opening we watched in the glow from the lightning flashes as our tents were hurled out into the lake.
I’ll take this kind of rain on my front porch anytime.
A small bird swoops in under the roof. She has a nest on top of one the porch columns. She watches me closely. I can see little heads bobbing up above the edge of the nest. She bends down and with one move is gone to gather again.
Who am I to worry about some dang old dishwasher? The kitchen is a wreck until the pantry is finished. So what? Life is full of complications with work, family, and friends. But the tip-tap of the rain is working on me. The birds are not worried. The trees of the field give it all no thought.
This slow rain heals us all.