This week, the thermometers have forgotten again that it is December, and we’ve been treated to pretty mild weather that invites you to eat out on porches and patios, because you know this can’t last forever. In May, you know you have days and days, but in December you never know if this might be your last day for months to eat outside in the open air. It has been a pretty slow week at the camp. The phones have gone into hibernation, staff members are taking vacation days, and other staff members are doing work that has been put off until slower times. We are decorating the camp for a few small groups having staff Christmas dinners, but things just feel a little more relaxed these days. People are passing through with a little more casual feel with less urgency for some task. There’s more time to stop and chat these days in the office.
We’ve had several days with rain this week, and that has added to this gray tint we’ve had since all the leaves dropped. We knew that it was coming on Tuesday. I checked the radar hour after hour to track the storm that was steadily sweeping east. When I first looked it up, it was in Arkansas and part of Missouri. There was no doubt we would get rain. I predicted it would hit sometime around my lunch break, most likely when I was walking home or back to the office. I managed to miss it on the way in, and ate my lunch on my back porch with comfort. The sky still seemed pretty clear. Then, as I washed dishes, I noticed out my west-facing window there was a line of dark blue in the far distance. I took care of a few more errands around the house, pushing my luck, then set out for the office. The blue line was getting larger, and passing overhead. My dog, Digby, and I picked up the pace.
There is something fascinating about watching a storm roll in. You feel the air change. You see darker clouds take over. The light changes around you. This wind picks up. You get a feeling inside that something is about to happen. I watched the clouds creep up more and more on Digby and I, and I walked faster and faster. Digby wanted to stop and sniff every interesting odor he passed, but I yanked on his leash each time and brought him even with me. There was no time this afternoon. I could feel the wind picking up and hear it rustling through the trees and crispy, dead leaves. This wind pick-up is the messenger announcing that you will soon be joined by showers of rain. When I got even with the Hope Lodge, I thought I heard the wind pick up even stronger in the trees behind the building, but I was wrong. It was rain beginning to drop in on the hills above me, and, in seconds, it would be dropping on me. I took off sprinting, and Digby soon caught the hint. By the time we were even with the sheds behind the Tabernacle, it was pouring rain and the front of my shorts were already completely soaked. The rain came down stronger and stronger and did not settle until we reached the awning of the Administration Building with pounding hearts. We were both soaked in what amounted to about 30 seconds of rain exposure. There is something invigorating about getting caught in the rain like that. There is a slow build as the storm approaches, and then it is on you. Your only choice if you have hopes of staying dry is to run with everything that’s in you, and that chance is a very slim one. You will likely be covered, but you will feel more alive than you have felt in a long time, too, sprinting as if you life depends on it.
Jim was hoping to see Eric Clapton when his latest concert tour came to Nashville. Jim isn’t the most internet savvy of our staff, so he generally gets help from someone to order tickets online. Vickie said she’d be happy to help him get his tickets, and this morning they went to Ticketmaster to see if there were any left. There were, indeed, lots of tickets left for grabs, but Jim is probably not going to Eric Clapton. The cheapest tickets he could find were around $120, and Jim said that he’d have to have binoculars to even see in that section. The floor tickets were $850. When Jim first came in, Vickie said, “Are you ok with tickets for eight-fifty?” Jim thinking she meant eight dollars and fifty cents said, “Yeah, I can handle that. Let’s all go!” Jim said he wanted to see this show, because he had never seen Clapton before. Looks like he should have tried to catch him back in his Yardbird days. It pays to catch them when they’re young and not too many people have declared him the greatest guitarist who ever lived.
I remember a show that I caught with a bunch of friends, seeing Nickel Creek at the New Daisy theater in Memphis. This is a group that so many of us adored back in the early 2000s, who have since split up and gone onto other projects. But, we got cheap tickets, much cheaper than what we would pay years later for their farewell tour tickets. We walked Beale Street, people watching, enjoying an evening downtown. The show was as good as we expected it to be. I remember Allyson, the girl who would eventually be my wife, there. We were flirting with each other at that point. I was not sure what to feel about her, and I felt like I was taking my time to figure things out. But as we held hands, walking down Beale, I realize, now, that what I was doing was letting myself fall for her. When the show ended and the lights came on, they played a song from Miles Davis, Blue in Green, a song we both loved, and that song seemed to make obvious how great a match we were for each other. As we walked out of the New Daisy, we discovered that it was pouring rain. The group of about 6-8 of us did not know what to do. We hadn’t discussed dinner yet, some had to leave immediately, and none of us were parked in the same place. People were pushing out of the theater, and we had to make a decision quick. We opted to run out into the street, splashing in the puddles and accepting that we were going to get drenched. I gave the girls in the group my two shirts so they could cover up, and we tromped down Beale Street, shameless, enjoying this seemingly unfortunate set of events. How alive we were that night.
I was out again with Digby on Thursday afternoon, throwing the tennis ball, and I was hypnotized by the river. It was so smooth, and the sky was such a mix of blue and gray. I could not resist it. We pulled out a canoe, strapped on a life jacket, and hit the open water. The lake grass that covered so much of the river is almost all gone. It has clumped up into piles of mostly dead grass that is sort of eerie to paddle over. Your canoe skims over it and makes a quiet, squealing noise. We paddled out, on a collision course with large groups of ducks on the water. If you still your paddle you can hear hundreds of quacks and coos. Then, we get at a distance they don’t like, hundreds of them will take flight at once, working their little duck feet like they’re running on the water, making this collective noise that sounds like rain falling. It is one of my favorite sounds here, in this place. As the afternoon wound down, and we were on our way back to the camp dock, I looked down river and saw a haziness, that looked to me like it could be raining as close as Eva Beach. Then drops began to fall on us again. It looked like Digby and I would be caught in the rain on both land and water this week. Thankfully, it was just a light drizzle that ended as quickly as it began. But, then again, as uncomfortable as it would have been at the time, once we accepted our fate and let the rain soak us to the core, we might have found that we didn’t want to be anywhere else. Surrounded by water above and below. Looking at the swath of raindrops in every direction. Knowing that I’ll remember this moment for years to come, feeling so much younger than I am. Feeling more alive than I did in all the moments I spent in the office, camped out in front of a computer screen. So alive.
May you find experiences that fill you full of life during this holiday season.