A Window of Warmth After Weeks of Rain

It has rained 60 of the last 69 days. Even the highway that winds over the mountain from the city of Tillamook on Oregon's northern coast to Portland, the nearest large city, has settled a few inches. A small fault line slices the asphalt near the summit. It's as though even the very earth is settling under the pressure of so much water.

In years past, small windows of clarity between storms have allowed us to dash out for walks or runs or rides on our bikes. This is the first year in 20 where there are simply no windows during the wet days.

It has been raining continuously with such force, that when a clear day comes, we stagger from our homes like Mole and Ratty emerging from the dark woods, bumping into each other and blinking at the sudden brightness of the sky.

This is not to say we stay inside. In fact, this year, two of my best walks left me so wet I had to borrow a friend's clothing to get home. On the end of a sandbar, rain coupled with wind held me almost upright. I leaned into its force on a return path along the waterline, stumbling occasionally as a gust came at me from the side.

One of my children's favorite places to go on our wet walks is the golf course in the small city where we live. In the winter, the stream that runs through the manicured green lawns is controlled by the ebb and flow of the tides. It doesn't take much extra water to push the stream over its banks and create a lake deep enough for boats and waders. Canada geese, herons, ducks, and gulls come to the course in the winter when the only visible lawn is the raised border circling the area.

In cold winters, the course freezes and we ice skate, or slide or sled. Because this is a tourist town, many of the houses are empty in winter. We can walk for blocks before we see a light in a window or a plume of smoke from a chimney. My daughter, Hallie, dashes, like a sanderling at the ocean's edge, between the road and the golf course where the turf is so saturated that in places it lifts from the soil to float unanchored save to the surrounding lawn.

I'm used to the rain. I like it. Even during these many months of damp wet weather that have sent some people from drier states back home shaking their heads in wonder at the people who stay here, I'm content in Oregon.

I like the way rain washes the evergreens and invites the birds to fish in swollen rivers and bays. I like the way it makes some people curl up by fires and pushes others out to test themselves in the harsher elements. It seems a natural sort of population control for the state, encouraging adaptability and tenacity, giving the area a reputation for a rather eccentric mix of folks.

Driving home along our old road, the bare alders washed white and clean beside the road, I follow the creek, almost foreign in its width, hissing and encircling trees used to rooting in dry ground. The power of the water is so full, it's as though the creek runs in two directions. Whitecaps, where water crashes against rock, spray up in the air as much as two feet. Normally clear, still water turned brown with turbulence sweeps up leaves, twigs, and grass and races them to a destination out of sight.

As soon as I can, I pull the car off to the side to watch the water. A small herd of 12 elk come to this area in the early morning. But our road has been so heavily logged that the elk are finding new spots, and I can't always find them where they have been for years. The creek side of the road has seen little cutting, however, and the grass is matted where the elk lie. I find myself looking to the creek exclusively these last months on our road.

Today the water with its rushing, roaring, snapping force inspires courage. Humbled and a little damp, I head for home.

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