Friday, April 10, 2009
RAIN DAY, REST DAY?
It’s raining today along the river. Not in downpours, just little spring showers which seem to lack enthusiasm. Good for the grass and plants, but not enough to get a fellow wet if, say, I decided to make a quick check of the mailbox up the hill. Not enough to discourage a robin from loudly singing his sweet swinging melody that’s so indicative of the season. Still, the day is dark and there’s a steady, slow drip along the eaves. And inconsequential as the rain is, there’s enough that Moon the dog, who detests getting wet, will—after ringing her chimes which signals a desire to go outside—pause under the sheltered portion of the deck and cast displeased looks back my way, because she believes that all dog-wetting rain is ultimately my fault. I’d hoped to work on my backdoor patio today—or at least on the planting bed which is the first element in the patio’s layout. Yesterday I drove a few miles north to a building supply store and picked up a couple of 4x6-inch pressure-treated timbers, each 16 feet in length. I’ll use these—along with shorter pieces of 4x6 which I had on hand already—to outline a 16x3-foot planting bed along one-half the rear wall of the cottage. I’ll then fill in the 8-inch deep box with a mix of flower seeds—and with luck, ought to have a nice bed of color by early summer. That had been the day’s plan—get the timbers down, leveled, filled with dirt and planted with seed. But unless the weather clears up and things dry out at least a bit, I’ll have to scrap the notion until tomorrow, when partially-sunny skies are predicted. Yesterday, when I was doing the bed’s preliminary digging, I realized how weak and soft I’d become over the winter. Muscles which hadn’t seen serious physical labor since late last fall are today stiff and sore. Plus my storehouse of stamina is noticeably depleted. Age plays a part, of course; each passing year puts a bit more wear and tear on our bodies, demands we draw deeper from our energy reserves. In youth and early middle-age, I spent this energy without giving it a second thought, as if it were boundless—which, in a way, it was. An overnight’s rest or even a meal would replenish any loss. Nowadays, there isn’t as much in the tank to start with and refills take longer and longer. Still, I believe the old saw that “people don’t wear out…they rust out,” to be the greater truth of the matter. I’ve seen too many 70- and 80-year olds bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny to fool myself otherwise. Nope, it’s too easy to spend the winter in semi-hibernation, like a bear in the den. The fire is warm, the house cozy, there are books and music and cable TV and the internet to keep us busy. Observation can take the place of participation when it comes to outdoor activities. Shopping at the mall, regular trips to the grocery store, and running errands may keep us occupied—but it doesn’t keep us limber and strong, energetic and healthy. Our job, unless it involves physical labor, doesn’t help much, either…and in my case, not at all. There’s no workout in poking at a keyboard for a few hours. It’s also why, after buying the timbers, loading them in the pickup, and hauling them home—I called it quits for the day, even though there was an hour or so of daylight remaining. Until my decrepit body gets back up to snuff (more or less…I’m not expecting miracles) I expect most of these initial workdays will be necessarily foreshortened. Quitting early has its rewards, however—at least it did yesterday. The day’s ending was warm and the rocking chair on the side deck offered comfortable embrace—a pleasant appeasement where I could sip a drink and watch the sun sink ever lower in the west. A woodpecker hammered on a rotting box elder limb. Finches chattered from the feeders. A pair of mallards came hustling up the river, flying low and fast, only a yard or so above the surface but making no attempt to land; the drake’s green head and neck shimmered like an emerald in the last of the waning light. There was a bit of a chill in the air, toward the end, and I slipped on a fleece pullover. Such a simple act, so everyday…and yet it always feels good, a small, sensual gratification. So many of life’s rewards are found in the basics. A drink when you’re thirsty. Food when you’re hungry. The view of a glowing sunset. Birdsong. A comfortable rocker. Spring’s sweet breath. A warm sweater. That was yesterday; today there’s rain. But even now, the sky appears to be growing incrementally lighter. And the eaves are no longer dripping. Is the rain over? Will I be able to get my flower bed prepared? Maybe…maybe not. Nevertheless, I intend to take a walk, even if I have to do so in the rain. Moon will come along, excited with all the new sights and smells. In her book, going for a walk in a light rain trumps remaining behind and staying dry—it doesn't mitigate my guilt in the matter. Some things never change.