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The Road Less Trammeled
by Steven T. Rider

Intimate Views    September 04, 2004

The pandemonium of the birds’ mating season is over. Their sounds in the woods and fields have been replaced by those of crickets and cicadas. The nights are no longer the steamy, sultry variety, yielding to crisp, clear skies that permit the Milky Way to blaze with full fury across the ink black sky.

This is my favorite time of year to take a walk in the rain. Lunacy, you say? Perhaps, but one thing I can always guarantee, I am blessed with solitude no matter where I choose to hike, and as long as my adventure lasts (as long as the rain holds out).

For a real change, I take a walk down a familiar path. Breathing deeply, I smell the rich and pungent fragrances of a living earth, which are very often missing on a sunny day. I get on hands and knees to check out the fungus among us. The intricacy and variety of these fruiting bodies is always surprising. Unless you are very familiar with species identification, refrain from taking some home to eat. I was once told by a noted mycologist (those who study these spore producing miracles) that, “telling the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms is easy: the edible ones you get to eat more than once.”

I listen to the rain, trying to imagine the journey of a single raindrop as it drifts to the earth, slides off of a leaf or blade of grass, seeps into a stream and out to the ocean. If I can, I include a side trip to a place with a view. In the rain, views become more subtle and intimate. The ragged clouds, heavy with tears, cling to the hillsides, as if reluctant to part from the landscape that gave them rise.

The red squirrel and chipmunk are working tirelessly to stockpile seeds, and the chipping sparrows are moving about in clans on a sweep across the forest floor for food.

You can find it easier to sneak up on wildlife in the rain. The moisture mutes footfalls and the background hiss of rain helps to conceal any sound. I suppose that the creatures of the woods and fields also assume that any self-respecting human wouldn’t choose rainy weather as a first choice in which to roam about.

I dress for the weather, though. I find that many light layers gives me the freedom to mix and match without trapping moisture inside the garments I’ve worn to keep from getting wet. I try to avoid the rigid plasticware of traditional raingear because it interferes with my ability to listen silently (the rain spatters and pops against it).

Rain. Giver of life. Harbinger of a lush and bountiful spring. Go soak yourself.

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