Saturday, July 1:
The ground was already saturated when the rains started this morning. And by afternoon it had become torrential, sheets of rain battering houses, trees, gardens. The fourth of July celebration in town is washed out. By 3:00 is is raining as hard as it does in those peak two or three minutes of a thunderstorm, when you can hardly see your car from the window, or the edge of the field from the back porch–except that it goes on and on and on, for an hour, for longer. I look outside and Claire is standing under the downspout of the garage, rainwater gushing onto her upturned face. I call Emme and we run outside to join her, drenched within moments, opening our arms to the water geysering off the garage roof, running through puddles, and generally laying ourselves bare to the ferocity of the storm.
Eventually we go inside to shower and dry off. It is not long after coming downstairs that I see that the intensity of the rain has if anything increased, and climbing the tree suddenly becomes irresistible. I strip down to shorts and run back outside. Seconds after leaving the shelter of the porch I am drenched to the skin. I run across the lawn, rain pummeling head, chest, back. Forging up the tree is like pushing upwards against a large hand pressing down. As I rise branch to branch the rain drums against leaves, the trunk, the pale animal climbing. The tree is streaming beneath my hands. When I have reached my perch and look past the heavy prayer flags the hills are invisible beyond the rain, and even near trees are whitish behind the watery air.
I would like to stay up there longer, but it is colder than I expected and after a few minutes savoring the experience I head back down. Back inside the house I dry off once more.
Within hours, driveways will be destroyed and roads closed in towns around the upper valley, flash flooding taking down trees in places, creating ravines that undercut pavement, flooding streets and parking lots. The disassembling power of water, that softest and most yielding of substances, has been unleashed. As the Taoists are always pointing out, what gives way overcomes.
Sunday, July 2:
I climb in the evening after getting home from work. It is gorgeous out, a perfect summer evening: blue sky, puffy clouds, the air dryer now than it was after the rains of yesterday. It is close to sunset but still brilliant out, the sun gleaming off every leaf almost blindingly. The branches around me, the top of the tree across the lawn, the meadow itself and the trees along the road and those that rise up to the ridge, and the layered hills beyond: it is a world of green, a thousand shades, exploding with light. I circle through the tree slowly, taking it all in.
Monday, July 3:
As I walk through the twilight to the tree after getting home from work: A solitary firefly floating at waist height above the lawn. (Last year there was an abundance of fireflies.)
Tuesday, July 4:
I climb late, 10:30, after a Village Harmony concert. The moon about three quarters full and already so bright it is laying swaths of light across the meadow. The trees along the meadow’s edge are black in silhouette against the darkly luminous sky. (More on luminous darkness.)
Wednesday, July 5:
It is 8 pm and I make my slow, careful, and painful way up the tree. I am just returning from an Irish flute lesson, and a toe on my left foot is almost certainly broken. I had taken Claire and Emme to explore the Flume in the White Mountains (in lieu of climbing Mt. Abraham in Vermont because of a sprained ankle among us), and I have only a few minutes at home before heading back out to my lesson. Rushing around I manage to kick the leg of a stool bare-footed. I have learned already that it is possible to climb the tree using only one foot, but it is without question a good deal less fun.
I had planned my first mountain climb of the season for two days from now, the Beaver Brook Trail up Moosilauke. Alas, there will now be no summits in my near future but the modest height where I now stand. But as I reflected last summer—in a pinch, a tree will do for a mountain.
Thursday, July 6:
A quiet climb in early evening with nothing to report. Not every climb is notable. This one made so, if at all, only by the discomfort of a broken toe.
Friday, July 7:
I climb after a rock hunting trip before we head out of town for the weekend. At Emme’s request that we use spare chunks of time to look for interesting rocks this summer I researched rockhounding sites and found information about an old beryl mine in NH. After a meeting at work we drive an hour south and park on a back road.
On crutches I labor a quarter of a mile into the woods on a rough track, trying to shield the injured toe from use. The old mine site consists mostly of large piles of rocks now overgrown with trees. Swatting at the hordes of voracious mosquitoes we root around among the rocks and find mostly copious quantities of mica, the largest sheets the size of the palm of a hand.
It’s a fascinating site to which we plan on returning when Emme’s ankle and my foot are better, and the woods are not dense with mosquitoes. We return home, I climb (thinking of trees growing over mounds of rocks) and gaze upon the hazy grayish-green of the opposite hills, we load the car and leave again. Tomorrow we will be away and I will hang for a moment from some other tree.