It’s Raining

It has been raining.  Perhaps I mentioned that before?  If I am repeating myself, forgive me, but the weather has been repeating itself as well.  We had a break in the rain, which is a darn good thing or we would have been trying to buy a kayak to get to the grocery store.  But it’s started again and the forecast is not looking like we’re going to dry out soon.

A few days ago, they closed off a portion of the park we walk in because a good bit of it was under water.  Tisen and I walked down to the riverfront where it was open and I snapped a couple quick iPhone images of the water level.

While I was standing there, I ended up in conversations with 3 separate neighbors who have lived here many years.  They were all amazed by the water level–none of them remembered seeing it that high before.

I took some time going through old photos to find some comparison shots.  So, here is my photographic evidence that the river is really high:

  1. Shot taken 2 days ago under the Market St Bridge–note the water is up to the grass in the image:IMG_2570
  2. Shot taken in the spring showing the launch ramp that’s supposed to be in the same spot under the Market St Bridge, but it’s completely under water in the above photo.IMG_1997
  3. Shot from 2 days ago looking downstream–the top of a Mimosa tree is visible (although dark).  It looks like a tiny peninsula in the upper right quadrant of the image.IMG_2573
  4. Shot from last year of the same bank showing the same Mimosa tree as it normally appears–not submerged.05 Better lit by the sun

Tennessee River Gorge

The height of the river testifies to the amount of rain we've had

The height of the river testifies to the amount of rain we’ve had

When you see stock images from the 4th of July other than fireworks, they all have one thing in common:  sunshine.  It’s so engrained in my memory that the 4th of July is always bright and sunny that I am unable to conjure any memories of a rainy 4th, even though I’m sure there were some.

This year, in spite of the great fortune of having 4 days mostly off work, the weather refused to cooperate.  We had nothing but rain.  Instead of spending 4 days hiking as we’d planned, I ended up working part of the first two days, rearranging the office in the afternoon of the 5th, and then spending the better part of that Saturday hanging shelves in the newly arranged office.

We watched several large logs racing down the rapidly moving water

We watched several large logs racing down the rapidly moving water

Granted, it needed to be done.  I’m very happy that we managed to get the office into some sort of order–I was tired of hunting through baskets on the floor when I needed something.  But, to be honest, it’s not quite what I had in mind when I thought about how I wanted to spend my 4-day weekend.  But, the deep gray skies that continually spouted rain day after day did make it easier to get motivated to work on the office.

On Sunday, the rain gradually eased up to a gentle mist and then evaporated.  The sun popped through the first gap in the clouds we’d seen for days sometime around noon.  When I took Tisen outside, I had no sunglasses or sunscreen on because I’d pretty given up on ever seeing the sun again.  When the sun suddenly appeared, I had to hold my hand over my eyes and squint, worried I’d perhaps turned into a vampire and I would soon turn to dust.

I was worried about Tisen falling into the river while I was shooting

I was worried about Tisen falling into the river while I was shooting

We made a quick decision to take a drive through the Tennessee River Gorge to a place  called, “The Pot House.”  I kid you not.  In fairness, it’s officially called Pot Point House or Pot Point Cabin, but everyone calls it “the pot house” for short–even the parks and recreation department refers to it in the vernacular in some of their web pages.

Even the storm sewer looked navigable via kayak

Even the storm sewer looked navigable via kayak

I have yet to find an explanation as to why the point is called “Pot Point.”  Perhaps the cabin was once the location of a clay pot maker?

Whatever the case may be, the views of the river gorge from Pot House were not quite what I was hoping for.  After snagging a few shots, the sun decided we’d had enough and was quickly replaced with yet another torrential downpour.

One of the 2 turtles we stopped to help cross the road

One of the 2 turtles we stopped to help cross the road

While it didn’t turn out to be quite the photographic opportunity I’d been hoping for, we did get some lovely views of the river gorge (unfortunately mainly at places where it was impossible to pull off the road).  We also assisted two turtles on their journey across the road, stopping to pick them up and put them where we hope they were headed.  They didn’t seem grateful, but it made us feel better.

A stream running down the hillside had turned into a waterfall

A stream running down the hillside had turned into a waterfall

Through the Woods

Stepping silently is impossible, especially in the woods.  But under the refuge of a heavy rain, each step disappears, blunted and blended into the sounds of the rain.  If ever I needed to escape or evade, I would hope for a downpour to hide my sound, my scent, my very presence, truly allowing me to leave no trace.

Perhaps it is the feeling of being encapsulated in a rain shower that causes an illusion of privacy.  As we put one foot solidly in front of the other, I forget my companions.  I look around in a panic realizing I haven’t heard Tisen’s familiar jingle for quite a few yards.  He is close at my husband’s heels, still trying to keep his head dry by hanging out under the over hang of Pat’s pack.  He hasn’t yet learned rain is its own kind of shelter.

Stepping through the rain becomes a meditation.  I cannot hear my own breath nor even my thoughts.  My mind has gone still and I focus on planting a trekking pole, placing a foot, planting the other trekking pole, placing the other foot.  I feel the muscles in my arms flex as I push off the poles.  I feel the twinge in my knee that threatens to turn into a sharp stab should I push it too hard.  My shoulders are already screaming.  I shift my focus back to my steps.  I don’t think about the distance left or the distance behind.  For those moments, I am my feet, my arms, my shoulders, my legs.  My boots and the ground move together as if the earth moves with me and all of me has melted; I am the rain.

Then, it stops raining.  My metaphysical moment evaporates even before the sun dares to break in through the clouds.

Returned to my more mundane reality, we find a spot to stop for a snack.  I slide out of my pack and dump it, rain cover down, onto a log.  It looks like an overturned turtle who has given up and stopped waving its legs.

I can’t remember ever enjoying trail mix so much as I enjoy it standing on the trail with a grumbling stomach, wondering if we will make it back without stopping for lunch.  Tisen stretches out and opts for a quick nap while we finish eating our apples before strapping our packs back on.

Now, the wet forest demands my photographer’s eye.  Every stretch of the trail reveals even more beautiful mushrooms.  I do my best to capture some of them with my 24-70mm lens, but I wish there were such a thing as a weightless macro lens and tripod so I could get up close and not worry about camera shake.

We hike faster as we get near the end.  My mind is no longer in the moment.  I’m longing for when I can set down my pack and know I don’t have to pick it up again for a very long time.


Down Came the Rain

There’s been an interesting development in the weather of late.  We went from ridiculous heat and drought to rain, rain, rain.

When at last the rain came, I went from relief to disappointment to worry.  The first day, when the rain drops started, I felt myself exhale.  Finally, rain!  But, it lasted only a half an hour or so and rained so hard it seemed like of it bounced off the dry earth and rolled away in the gutters.  The steam rising off the asphalt left us in a steam bath and the temperature barely dropped.

The next day, it rained more.  The temperature dropped dramatically and the sky took on an ominous tone.  The 10-day forecast was predicting rain for all of the next 10 days.  The relief in the temperature was welcome, but when the skies unleashed a torrent of rain that caused our roof to leak and the streets to flood, I started to worry. Coincidentally, I had volunteered to lead a bird walk for beginning birders before work Wednesday morning.  I scheduled it “rain or shine”.

This meant taking Tisen for a walk before the bird walk.  I tried to get him out of bed at 6AM.  He heard the rain on the roof and just rolled his eyes at me and stuck his nose under his blanket.  Tisen is not fond of rain.  Fortunately, his dad was home and volunteered to take Tisen out later while I was on my walk.

It did rain during the walk.  In fact, it started raining about the time we started walking and then kept raining harder and harder.  No one seemed to mind except the birds–they were suspiciously absent.  Although, we did see a couple of Osprey soaring over the river.

It rained like it was never going to stop from then on out.

The following afternoon, I managed to take a break for lunch.  I looked out the window and saw it was only sprinkling, so I thought I’d better take Tisen out right away.  He grabbed Blue Dog and off we went.  By the time we got downstairs, it was pouring.  I figured we might as well go for our walk in the rain, but Tisen had to be convinced.  He took two steps out from under the overhang and turned back around and started running for the door.  I managed to get him headed back out with much coaxing.

When at last we returned home, all three of us were soaked.  As soon as I let Tisen off his leash, he went running into the house with Blue Dog in his mouth.  He carefully laid Blue Dog on a towel left on the floor from drying Tisen earlier.  I had to laugh.  Since Tisen gave the big towel to Blue Dog, I had to use the only dry dog towel left in the house, which was an old hand towel.  Poor Tisen was still wet hours later.

Rain Day

The rain is back.  I have nothing against rain. I would just like to be able to schedule it.  For example, the summer afternoon thunderstorms in the Rockies are nice.  They roll in, drop their goods, and roll out like paratroopers on a daily exercise.  Having done their duty, there’s no need to linger and keep the sky gray for days on end.

While Chattanooga seems far sunnier than Columbus, the winter has brought a lot of rain.

Living on the top floor in a faux-loft apartment changes our relationship with rain.  I don’t have to look out the windows to tell if it’s raining–the sound of it hitting the roof gets so loud in a downpour that I frantically hit the mute button during conference calls.  In heavy rains, mysterious leaks start to appear that seem to be related to the angle and speed of the rainfall and can’t be pinpointed or recreated for maintenance men.

After a few hours, the rain drumming in my ears starts to fade into the background so that when it finally stops, it’s a similar experience to being in an office building when there is a power outage–the sudden absence of the white noise leaves the building in an eerie state of silence, often causing its inhabitants to start whispering.

While there is never silence here–there is always something making noise whether it’s a  delivery truck rumbling down the street, a car stopped at the intersection with its stereo blaring, people shouting and laughing over the sounds of traffic–there are moments of less noise.  When the droning of the rain suddenly stops, these other noises pop to the forefront and I find myself missing the buffer of the rain.  So, I have come to appreciate a slow, gentle rain that is just enough to wash away not only the debris in the streets, but also the noise pollution.

I have visions of shooting rain drops sharply in focus in the foreground with the blurred but recognizable backdrop of the aquarium across the river.  But first, our foster dog must go out.  After taking him out in the rain, drying him off, and setting up my tripod, it, of course, stops raining.  I shoot the aquarium in the mist.  Then, I aim for the clouds over the mountains in the distance.  Finally, I discover water drops forming on the balcony overhang and decide to try to get the effect I was looking for by shooting them falling.

An interesting thing about photography:  it’s one thing to envision an image and another to capture it.  After 30+ shots, I manage to capture the drops falling, but they disappear into the light gray background of the sky.  I cannot capture anything close to the picture in my head.

When I set my camera aside and buckle down to a hectic day at the office, it starts to pour.  If only I could schedule the rain . . .