I went for a walk in the rain today. My apartment was getting… just a little too small and civilized.
I put on old ragged tennis shoes and some grubby work clothes and took nothing but my keys. I walked out of my complex, across a bridge over the White Oak Bayou, and along T C Jester up to 11th Street. I crossed that and stepped into T C Jester Park.
It took about 90 seconds for the rain to drench my hair and begin rolling down my forehead and dripping off my eyelashes and nose. I can’t really remember the last time I set out walking in the rain without minding if I got wet. I walked straight through ankle-deep puddles because I could. I blinked raindrops out of my eyes to watch the bayou waters flow by, grayish-brown and turbulent. I stretched my hand out to brush heavy crystal drops off of pine sprays and oak leaves.
In spite of the clouds and rain, the air was warm with the scent of uncut grass and wild flowers. I saw Indian blankets and winecups, horsemint and sunflowers, beebalm and evening primrose. I saw flowers I didn’t recognize, small with five petals, a delicate pinkish beige, growing on rose-brown stalks that looked almost like dead twigs. And all through the tall grasses there were deep brown stalks of bluebonnets, some with seedpods still furred and shut, many with them blown open, with tiny rowed cups catching the rain. There were even a few bluebonnets still in bloom, amazing for late May.
I walked under a bridge where West T C Jester crosses the bayou. The path dips down near the water, and the railings were swathed in grasses washed around them in some recent downpour. As the path rose again, there was a sound just ahead and to the right, a sound that has enchanted me in the woods at Glacier, the sound of a waterfall. Here, of course, it’s the sound of a storm drain, but it was magical still to me, to stand there and hear nothing but the sound of water all around, rushing down in the bayou, splashing on the grass and leaves, murmuring in the ditches.
I turned back just short of 18th Street because my old sneakers were rubbing my feet raw in several places. (I find I have blisters on three toes and my right heel. I think I’ll just throw those shoes away.) As I walked back, I watched cliff swallows, small dark birds with creamy bellies and brown faces, flitting and skimming above the tumbling bayou water. I scanned the path and stooped to help unwary snails cross the concrete sidewalk so they would neither drown in the puddles nor be crushed by pedestrians like me. There were some earthworms too, unfortunately drowned already, so I couldn’t do much for them.
The rain quickened one last time as I passed under the West T C Jester bridge again. I lingered, looking up at the nests, and stared at four baby swallows staring back at me.
I went on, but I stopped just before 11th Street, crossing halfway over the pedestrian bridge that spans the bayou just before the road crosses it. I stood watching the water come down from upstream, and lifting my eyes to see the banks and bridges above it. I allowed myself to remember. The last time I walked in the rain like this, I wasn’t alone. There was a hand to hold, a smile to catch, warm, rain drenched lips to kiss the drops off of my cheeks. Memories that still hurt, but didn’t draw tears. I turned to the other side of the path and watched the water flow away. I dreamed of things that were, and things that are, and things that will never be. An egret, gleaming white against the gray water, flew out from under the bridge and glided down stream, towards home. I put away my memories and took it for an omen. I walked off the bridge and crossed the street, back into the neighborhoods.
I passed under a magnolia tree, blossoms like cups heavy with rain and a scent like nectar and ambrosia. I stopped by a deep puddle at a street corner, looked around quickly, then jumped into it from the sidewalk, splashing myself up to the knees and feeling irrationally pleased with myself about it.
I was almost home, and on top of the world when I heard and felt a sickening little crunch beneath my right foot. I’d stopped paying attention to the sidewalk, and had stepped on one of the little snail people. This is why I keep an eye out and try to move them off the sidewalk. I always feel terrible seeing their beautiful fluted shells shattered, slicing into their vulnerable soft little bodies. I felt chastened, dampened, and continued home more slowly and carefully. I stood on the last bridge over the bayou and looked up into the clearing sky. The rain had stopped and there were liquid blue breaks between the clouds. The sunlight was starting to seep through, pearly gray and white.
Now I’m curled up on my couch under a soft blanket, hair still damp from a warm shower, and feet hurting a little with the blisters. Back to civilization.