Discover more from Eager Mondays
The Rain on a Beavertown Roof
Dr. Andy looks out the window at the latest storm, and then shares memories of long-ago rainstorms
It’s raining again today, this time with thunder and hail, in Davis, California. The rain encourages contemplation, or, for me, prosaic and poetic composition, because of the inactivity that it enforces, at least in most Californians I know.
One afternoon last week my son Jukie and I took the dog for a long greenbelt walk on one of the days that threatened rain, and we encountered almost no one. We have so much to occupy us indoors these days – our work duties as well as our entertainments – that many of us do not step outside on a rainy day.
I can see why. Currently I recline in a La-Z-Boy recliner that conforms to my frame so comfortably. While it comforts me, I remember what the father of nuclear physics, Ernest Rutherford, famously said to people like me who appreciate comfortable chairs: “Of all created comforts, God is the lender; you are the borrower, not the owner.” I appreciate our Davis home that protects me from the elements. Above me is the second floor of our home and at least one sleeping member of the family, and above that, an attic and a newish roof. Rarely does it rain so hard in Davis that I can hear it clearly from my first-floor writing perch, though it did today.
Rather than relying on auditory evidence, we typically look outside to confirm the strength of the rain. The outdoor glass table behind the house, purchased so that we could have friends over for dinner, despite the pandemic, substitutes for a weathervane. Beholding the splashing of rain like an amateur meteorologist, I behold the frenetic little show, a transparent fireworks display.
Outside the south window, the trumpet flowers of the Chicklet Orange Esperanza bush seem to herald the first day of spring, bowing and dipping as they are buffeted by the insistent raindrops. Nearby, an unidentifiable bush that has sprouted chaotic vines seems to be dancing, perhaps expressing the joy of all California flora that we have had such a wet winter, and that the rain will continue into the week, as the lion of spring roars.
Showers such as these summon to my mind the memory of trying to fall asleep in my family’s cabin during a summer rainstorm. That three-room hut in Beavertown, Pennsylvania, bought for a few thousand dollars in the 1950s, seemed to me like a museum celebrating the early life of my grandmother, Vera, who had spent her 1900s and 1910s girlhood on a farm a block from the Beavertown cemetery where she is buried today. We loved Grandma’s austere time machine. By the standards of the 1970s, with our love of our television shows and record albums, the cabin was retro: The last structure on Reservoir Road at the base of Shade Mountain had no TV and no hi-fi.
Indoors we instead had the radio, which my grandmother turned on almost hourly to check the weather report; paperback novels and hardbacks filled with Roosevelt-era editorial cartoons left behind by previous generations of visitors; and different colored metal basins in the kitchen, one for washing hands and another for washing dishes. All the kitchen implements – I remember the potato masher and three-tined carving fork with their wooden handles, the chipped mismatched Pennsylvania Dutch porcelain, the ancient cookie tins – seemed well-worn. Once my grandmother told me that people were so poor in the 1930s that they reused and recycled everything, a practice she continued.
Outside the cabin, where I spent most of my daylight hours, we had the pump where we got the fresh water that filled those basins, the outhouse, and the path leading to the creek. Much to my delight, Luphers Run, the creek which provided Beavertown its water, not only crossed our little parcel of property, but it was also filled with crayfish and water striders. I am so glad to have spent those summers in the creek rather than on the couch.
But back to that rainstorm. While my home in Davis has a new (expensive) roof and a storey of bedrooms under the unused attic upstairs, the cabin in Beavertown had a 1930s era corrugated metal roof. Each raindrop that fell upon the rooftop a few feet above my head resounded like an acoustic explosion. On summer break from my Waldorf school where we studied Greek and Roman gods, I felt that Tempestas, the Roman goddess of storms or sudden weather, had hired a troupe of mad percussionists to tap and pound their metal drums erratically.
If I hadn’t been so exhausted from building and then disassembling (as I was ordered to) shale rock dams in the creek all day, the racket from that raucous summer tempest might not have let me fall asleep at all.
When we were stuck inside on a rainy day, Grandma used to tell us a misquoted version of “Into each life some rain must fall.” Later I discovered that she was quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (perhaps the most-read poet of 19th century America), and later still, I came across Longfellow’s poem “Rain in Summer” and the lines that present this remembered inclement cacophony better than my words above:
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
I hope that the clatter of rainstorms’ hoofs continues on your roof and mine through the coming weeks, and that the life breathed into our perpetually dry state brings all of us a more substantive comfort than what can be found in any recliner.
I get to host in-person or Zoom Pub Quizzes on occasion, as happened on March 9th (and thanks to all of you who attended), but these days I primarily share Pub Quizzes asynchronously. If you would like to receive a weekly Pub Quiz of 30 questions and answers, and if you would like to support these ongoing oddball newsletters about rain and such, please sign up over at Patreon. This week on Patreon, for example, regulars heard audio of me reading “Rain in Summer” by Longfellow. I will continue to share more audio of poetry and other writing, by famous authors and by me, if there is interest. Thanks especially to the teams who pledge ongoing support for all their members, and who share the quizzes via Zoom or in person (and I’m thinking especially of Quizimodo, the Outside Agitators, The Mavens, and the Original Vincibles – such great team names).
What would be the name of your Pub Quiz team?
Here are five questions from last week’s Pub Quiz:
Four for Four. Which of the following, if any, fluoresce under a black light: adult scorpions, baby scorpions, floral scorpions, scorpion fossils?
Science. The hottest planet in our solar system is the only such planet that rotates clockwise. Name it.
Great Americans. One U.S. President reportedly spoke eight foreign languages (Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Russian, and Spanish), more than any other U.S. president. He remains the only U.S. president who could converse in Russian. Name him.
Our next Poetry Night takes place on April 6th at the Natsoulas Gallery in Davis. If you are local, plan to join us!