Friday, January 21, 2011


It's not raining at the moment, in the early morning hours, but the porch lights and streetlights are shining off the wet bitumen of Amherst Street. The ground, where I can see it, is dark with the cold rain of the previous day and the remaining leaves are stained and sodden. It is the dark time, the wet winter of the year in the Pacific Northwest.I've lived here in North Portland for ten years now, in Oregon for twenty, the longest I have lived any single place in my life. Admittedly, I was a vagabond from my infancy when my father moved about the country at the behest of his company, a oxford-shirted, narrow-tied salesman and manager for a chemical company, the embodiment of the Sixties corporate man. But this place is the one I chose, or, at least, my then-wife chose for us and I have continued on in. So I have no justification to complain about the winter rain.

And normally I don't. It rains here, it always has. Lewis and Clark noted that the natives of the Oregon Coast wore no clothing below the waist because it would have been constantly saturated in the winter, while they and their troops groused endlessly about the constant rain. But vinyl, rubber, fleece, and gore-tex are more weatherproof than leather, and we here are better protected than the soggy inhabitants of Fort Clatsop. For all that I work out-of-doors all through the winter I have no complaint for most of the rest of the year.

But the rainy dark of midwinter always seems different.In the short daylight between the turning of the sun-season in late December and the return of the first of spring in early March the rain seems grimmer, the sodden trees more dour, than they do in December or April; the former retains the lingering warmth of autumn, the latter holds the promise of spring. But January and February are all winter; dirty, wet, cold, a plodding round of long, raw nights and short, dank days. Chests congest, noses drip, fevers flare. Tempers shorten, tongues sharpen. I have no idea of the actual statistics, but I'll bet that all the domestic crimes spike in the dark months. Suicide, murder, battery...they all seem less unthinkable when the cold rain spits in your face and the sky lours about your head like a bad mood.

So I leave my bed and the warm, embracing scent of my sleeping beloved and sit by the light of the screen, to gaze out at the slick black street thinking of the darkness and the coming rain.

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