I don’t want to leave the house. My mind says no. It insists on comfort, makes claims about self-preservation, and rejects the idea of going for a walk in the rain. But the soul knows what’s best and sometimes has to override the protests of the mind. It wants the experiences that are asking to be felt out there in the raw gray outdoors.
Rain gear is pulled on, its rubbery skin folding and flexing, smelling sweet and new. The smooth rounded form of the doorknob, built to fit human hands, is turned and pulled. The hollow clap of a Japanese brass bell, moved by the opening of the door, rings into the warm, still space of the house.
Thick boot soles clunk on the wood of the deck. Then the crunch of gravel announces my steps down the road.
The wind swooshes in the heavy wet canopies of the big pines. Their tight-grained, sinuous wood strains and creaks with tension. The clanging of rigging against a mast, rhythmic, hollow, sounds far off even when it’s close. The heavy lapping of windblown waves is the softest sound out here.
The calves must do more work to walk in sand than on the road. The salt in the air grows from something smelled to something tasted. I taste tide mud, algae, and oyster brine on the wind.
My feet navigate by feel the sharp peaks and soft flat spots of an oyster bar. The energy of a familiar person is felt. A friend. I hear the sound of my own name spoken by a voice I know, an oysterman’s. The steel of a knife scrapes through a cluster of oysters fused together at their hinges, a conversation.
“It’s not so bad out here. The rain is warmer than I expected.”
“I was going to stay in and make some art. But I figured I should get out. Do a little work.”
“It’s important to get out on these days.”
“It’s OK — as long as my hands are warm.”
“Good to see you.”
A dry leaf rattles past, skidding over rounded stones and sharp shells. A leaf on the tide feels out of place. The wind is coming off the water. The leaf must have blown in from far away.
I wander up the beach to where the wind rides up over the sand bank. Here, in the beach grass, the rush of wind is constant. The finer the texture of the things the wind passes though, the steadier and more brushed its sound. A piece of netting, caught in a tree, hisses.
The wind is at my neck. Rain collects in the fabric of my pants. Mud sucks at the soles of my boots. I’m cold but not painfully so. When is a walk no longer a going outward and away and instead a turning homeward? Does the journey home begin the moment I leave the house? Can I go out in search of an idea or realization? Or will it elude me more the harder I try?
The words of Robert Finch pass through my mind. In an interview on the radio years ago, he said something like “If I go for a walk and I’m looking for something, I won’t find it.”
I reach my midpoint. I know this because the wind that was against my back is now in my face. It is raw. I lean into it, shoulders high.
The rustle of a bird catches my attention. Wings in wet grass. How does it survive out here? The dips in the landscape and dense brush are its only shelter. The birds live out here and do what must be done. They feel all of it but do not seem to suffer. I would feel sorry for myself. My own thoughts would break me down. They tuck their heads in, close their eyes, face the wind, and survive.