6 Unburned Pieces of The Mind
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20060114

A Rainstorm in January

In the utility closet leaning up against the corner are my snowshoes, a beguiling reminder that for this time of year, I should be out making tracks through the woods. Not today, though, nor any other day this winter thus far. The most snow we’ve had on the ground was a half foot we got last month, but it didn’t stay around very long before it washed away with the rain.

Rain, lots of rain for what seems to be the makings of an incredibly mild winter. The Almanac’s forecast for a bitterly cold and snowy winter is beginning to seem like an over-hyped travel bag promised as a free gift. When it arrives you end up feeling sorely disappointed. Our January thaw this week didn’t have much to thaw out, and the 50 degree temperatures have made the last few days feel more like late October or early April.

Today, though, I’d say early April, especially with the rain that was beating against the windows this morning. Not that I haven’t seen rain in January before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen rain like this where it comes in huge sheets pushed by thirty to forty mile an hour gusts.

After spending the morning housecleaning, I hopped into the car and drove to Wasses to get a hot dog smothered in grilled onions, mustard and relish. As I stood under the awning while waiting in line, the man in front of me said, “If this had been snow, we’d be up to our eyeballs in it, I tell you.”

“I’m sure,” I replied, smiling, as I reached into the cooler for a Dr. Pepper.

I was drenched by the time I got to the order window. The lady that manages the stand looked at me. “Most people are using the drive-through today,” she said.

“I imagine,” I said. “But what fun is there in that?”

She laughed. “Not much, I suppose.”

She turned about to make my order, closing the window just as another sheet of rain draped over me as if I were taking a shower in my clothes. When I got back inside my car, my Woolwich coat smelled like wet wool mittens after a hard day’s play out in the snow.

As I sat encased in moisture eating my hot dog, it didn’t take long before the windows inside my car steamed up real good. I turned the engine on and put the defroster on full blast. A rainstorm in January’s not so bad, I suppose. The weather can’t always be what you want it to be or expect, so you may as well enjoy it for what it is. Besides, there’s a good two months of winter left. Somewhere during the time remaining I’m sure is that one snowstorm waiting to drop a foot or more of snow. And when it does, I’ll put my day pack together and toss my snowshoes and ski poles in the trunk of my car, and head out to make tracks.

Days like that, I usually start out early in the morning by having breakfast first at Chase’s Daily. I especially like their French toast made from sweet corn raisin bread. Accompanied by a cup of Espresso blend coffee, you have the perfect combination that puts you in an appreciative, contemplative mood as you take in the camaraderie of others engaged in small talk and pleasantries.

After eating, it’s just a matter of deciding where I’m going for my trek. Sears Island has become one of my favorite spots for a day jaunt. Said to be almost a thousand acres, it’s one of the larger islands on the coast of Maine, and sits at the top of Penobscot Bay. Just seven miles from where I live in Belfast, the island is easily accessible thanks to a causeway that connects it to the mainland. The island is preserved as a wildlife sanctuary, thus it’s not open to traffic or snowmobiles. Shaped like an inverted cereal bowl, the island has a slight ascent toward the center and a slight decent toward the shore facing east.

After a snowstorm around the beginning of March last year, I startled a Great blue heron as I began to make my way down to the shore after a hard trek across the island in a good two feet of heavy snow. As the heron flew away across the water, I pulled my fur hat off that covered my head in a heavy sweat, and unzipped my coat. The day after a storm, even though still thick in a gray sky above, affords a clear view of the entire bay and the islands beyond. Something there is about going there, that puts my mind at ease, that makes me feel as if I am absorbed and every bit as connected to that place as the heron I came upon.

I finish the last of my hot dog. The wind and rain sweeps across the parking lot in sheets that sways my car in a gentle rocking motion. There’s much of the day left. On a mild, January day with rain falling in torrents, there’s not much else to do except to be resigned at home with a few magazines and a book. I put the car in gear, and head back to my place.