I awakened early on Saturday morning, two hours before first light, and fixed myself a cup of coffee… before going out on my screened porch in the darkness to sit and listen to the gentle …
I awakened early on Saturday morning, two hours before first light, and fixed myself a cup of coffee… before going out on my screened porch in the darkness to sit and listen to the gentle rain.
It is strange for me to have a time that it is difficult to write, or to go through a time when I have trouble sleeping through the night. But I am troubled now, by what is going on in the Ozarks, and the nation.
My perch here on the forested ridgetop is the highest point of this county. It looks out across a wide river valley, and the distant ridge on the other side of it is miles and miles away. But there on the porch as I relax and listen to the rain, I can see that far-away ridge from time to time, in flashes of white which play across the western sky. I try to count off seconds between the time I see it and the time I hear the thunder. At first it is 22 seconds. I think that is suppose to mean the storm is that many miles away. That rumbling of thunder in the darkness is a beautiful sound, combined with the slow rain on my metal roof.
I thought, that morning, of all the nights I have laid inside a gravel bar tent, just loving the sound of a gentle rain falling through sycamore branches, apprehensive in knowing what is coming. That rumble in the distance is soon going to sweep over that peaceful, flowing river where I have camped, and the lightning bolts will be crashing down, taking away the sound of a nearby shoal, making it impossible to sleep.
And then, as I sit on my porch in a night as black as a lawyer’s soul, there is another bright, white sky, and the rumble count becomes 16. The storm is moving fast. The rain is picking up a little, and on the open deck to the north side of the covered porch where my coffee cup now sits empty, acorns whack down from the big white oak that towers over it. It is the same every October in the past thirty years. What a racket we have to contend with, and it is a wonder that two or three acorns no bigger than the end of my thumb can sound so loud and intrusive, falling onto a board floor. That oak tree sits very close to it, at least 200 years old. It pelts my roof with acorns in the fall.
In the darkness below my perch there are about 25 huge trees of many species. Hickories and walnuts are falling now too. We are going to have an adequate winter mast crop, at least until mid-January when the abundance of acorns has nearly disappeared.
The night sky becomes white again, and now I see a streak of lightning, a bolt from high places which strikes the ground somewhere in the deep valley before me. I count again. The thunder comes in 6 seconds, no longer a gentle rumble but a crashing, ominous peal from the heavens. Minutes later I hear the sound of heavy rain hitting the earth perhaps a mile away. It moves slowly, but as steadily as daylight through the timber to the east on a calmer day. Soon the muffled roar of heavy rain is, only a few hundred yards to the west of me. There is a strong whisper of cool water against the warm dry earth, and of bigger raindrops rushing through the foliage before me coming to crescendo against the porch roof.
There is that smell of fresh rain, a smell that makes you breathe deeply to pull in the scent. Many things no writer can describe, and that scent is one of them. I sit in the darkness hoping that the lightning will pass and the rain will continue, but the worst of the storm is coming!
The river in the valley below me has been low, but now the shoals will run full again. My old johnboat sits in the trees below me. Soon I will paddle it down that river looking for ducks or trying to tease a bass with some old lure, a lure now the worse for wear after too many days on the river and many fish. I don’t know why I cling to the past so tightly, but to me the old lures seem better.
Then, as a bolt of lightning cracks down on something only few hundred yards away from my porch, I decide I will go inside. It’s funny, but you can smell a close lightning strike too. Finally, we have the rain we’ve been needing. It makes me think of my Dad, who often said, as we took cover in some Piney River cave to wait out a storm… “It rains on the just and the unjust… and they just ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”
Then he would light his pipe, lean back against the dry rock wall and wait patiently, while I peered into the deluge worried about whether the storm would pass on or stay. But always, the rain and thunder would recede and we would go on down the river as foliage dripped and the clouds began to break open. On the river, Dad would often say… “This is a day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad about it.”
And whether there is a storm here at dawn on Lightnin’ Ridge or the sun bathes the forest brightly as it climbs high in a blue sky, I try to remember that! All of us who are blessed enough to live in a country setting far from the madness of the present times, should do the same.