When my husband controls the steering wheel he heads toward his destination and notices little else. I, on the other hand, slow and stop along the way to satisfy my curiosity.
My most exciting discoveries have happened while out gallivanting, wandering the countryside with my feet in brogans and no destination in mind. During such times, I spot the most interesting plants, weeds, flowers, trees, fences, and man-made things being swallowed by the landscape. But occasionally, while a passenger in my husband’s truck, nature whispers to me, and I long for him to pull over to the side of the road. At times, I ask him to do so, and, other times, I keep quiet.
Once, many years ago, my husband drove me through the mountains of Ellijay and never slowed the truck for me to gaze at mountain laurel, trillium, and blue violets. My eyes focusing on the landscape, he drove around dangerous curves at a break-neck speed, and gave me motion sickness. Still, I gazed at the white blur of dogwood among hills of green purring to me. I watched until the nausea overtook me.
It’s not that my husband doesn’t enjoy nature. He does. But when he gets behind the wheel, he has one thought on his mind. He wants to reach the place he’s headed.
Several days ago, he and I were together in the truck. It was raining, and there was beauty in the rain.
My husband drives past a long ranch style house, and on the far side, I spot a pond. When we are parallel to the pond, the downpour gains speed, and I watch the blur of raindrops splash into the water and, as a result, create upward splashes. Down and up, the water goes. Bing. Bing. Bing. And though I want to stop, I say nothing. If I were driving, I’d pull the car into the path leading to the edge of the pond and watch the dance of rain on water. I’d watch the see-saw, the up and down of raindrops. I’d hold the scene in my hands and wrap it, as if it were a gift, and tuck it deep inside me to pull out from time to time, to smile at the memory, to use the scene in my writing, to remind myself of the beauty of nature.
Not long after passing the pond, I’m drawn to luscious clusters of greenery, about knee-high, with pale blooms. They are growing on either side of the road, and perhaps because it is February, still winter, the green plants sing to me. I point to them and ask, “What do you think those are?”
Without slowing, his hands guiding the steering wheel around a curve, he says in a soft voice, “I don’t know. I can’t tell from here.”
I lift my right hand and touch the car window with my fingers, longing to stop, but neither of us are dressed for the cold, wet weather, and, though my husband will pull over for me if I ask, I know he wants to get home to put some of his most fragile plants inside before the cold arrives. The temperature is dropping. And I know he has no heart for exploring on this particular day.
I slip a CD by Beethoven into the stereo, but turn the volume low.
I’ve touched this landscape thousands and thousands of times with warm fingers under the sun, touched the dry leaves of spring, picked wildflowers on hot summer days, waded in the river. I’ve planted on sunny and overcast days, pushed my hands into local soil and given it gifts of seeds. I’ve picked blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes and cucumbers. I’ve wandered through the woods under sunny skies, but I’ve seldom explored this landscape under falling rain. I have no memory of ever walking through the woods during a hard rainfall, except on the few occasions I was caught unaware by the weather.
Today, drizzling rain licks white dogwood petals—the bracts. I spot dogwood trees growing wild in the edge of the woods. Even though it is still winter, many of the trees have dressed for spring. Drops of rain lap over green leaves and textured bark. Though I can’t remember ever wanting to feel tree bark in the rain, today I do. I want to know all I can about this earth I inhabit. I’d like to caress the bark with the pads of my fingers.
A large Japanese magnolia is in bloom in the area between a yard and the woods. I wonder if the sprinkling rain is pulling the tulip-shaped petals to the ground. Will a lacy doily of pink surround the tree in the morning? If so, will the owner of the tree notice the doily?
Barbed wire and fence posts are wet and free of dust and pollen, and from this distance, from where I sit rolling by in the truck, the weeds are as beautiful to me as they can be, their colors in every shade of green found on my artist palette.
We pass a narrow dirt road leading into the woods, and I wonder if the trees hide a small cabin, the type of place I like to escape to when writing. Perhaps there is a cabin and it has a tin roof. I don’t see a warning sign. It wouldn’t hurt to drive back there and take a look.
It’s a barn with a tin roof that makes me cry. When I see it, tears come out of nowhere. My youth rising up with calloused, gentle hands and touches my face. Tap. Tap. Tap. I hear the tap-dancing in my mind. Tap. Tap. Tap. I’d like to dance below the tin. And then, after dancing, I’d like to hold my arms out and twirl as I did throughout my childhood and as I did throughout the childhood of my son and daughter, twirl until, dizzy and giggling, I fall over.
Passing the barn, I reach up and touch my face, as if to keep the hands of those years with me. Stay with me for a while. Stay with me.
Stay with me.
I want to hold the page from this rainy day in my heart forever.
Stay with me.