Raindrops

By Erik Dolson

There are days when you just don’t want to go anywhere.

The dark blue Sunbrella “canvas” stretches over stainless steel bows to form the roof of the pilot house. When installing, we pulled it tight. A steady downpour this morning drums on the canvas with many a different cadence.

If I calm my mind, there’s a higher, softer sound as rain directly falls to the surface with a “tap.” Then, there’s a slower, heavier “twop” as larger drops drip off the sail or the backstay where they’ve sat for a moment, joined with others and gained more volume. The different drops seem to fall to the surface in clusters, or waves.

The Coho ferry bellows its arrival. Of course, the sounds that arrive at my eardrum are waves, as well.

There are errands to do. I’ve got raincoats and hats, warm socks and fleece, and could bundle up and stay dry. But the idea of venturing out of my blue house to avoid puddles and traffic, then wait for a bus to take me to the chandlery a few miles away where there are probably crowds of sailors and fishermen and boaters of all types on a Saturday …

“Twop. Tap tap tap … twop. Tap tap tap, twop. Tap tap twop, tap tap twop.”

It’s not random, the beat of the rain on the drum of my roof, transferred to the skein of my awareness. There is a pattern. But I know, too, that the brain is a pattern perception / creation machine, and will create patterns always, even where none exist.

We played with that in my 20’s, after making a diffusing glass light box with blinking Christmas lights to watch as we played Rock and Roll. Yes, drugs were involved, along with waves of laughter that followed the seemingly synchronized play of light and music. I’ve observed how light changes, within and without, at different times of the year; suffered from patterns of my own creation when rebuffed, brimmed with joy when embraced with no explanation.

My desire to run to the chandlery instead of working on the novel is part of a pattern. I run often enough to do something else rather than sit and do what I should. There are probably waves in that, as well.

“Tap tap twop, tap tap twop.”

Decades ago I worked in a salmon cannery in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I was “gas man” my first season, up whenever the incoming tide floated bow pickers and stern pickers, then wooden fishing boats that set long gill nets to drift across the Nak Nek River outflow to capture the river of salmon heading upstream to spawn, waves in a river of fish.

Another season I was tasked with cooking fish heads to make the oil that soaked the red meat of sockeye salmon in “one pound talls,” cans about four regular tuna cans tall that were sealed, stacked in racks and pushed along rollers into long retorts where they were cooked with steam. At the other end the racks of cans were pulled and taken by forklift into a giant warehouse where they cooled before labeling and boxing.

As thousands and thousands of cans cooled, the tops of cans that had popped outwards from the expansion of water into steam during the cooking, now popped back in. With a metallic but musical note. “Tink, tonk, tenk, tunk, tank, tink.”

Thousands and thousands of cans unheard except by a worker standing in a doorway watching rain pound the Nak Nek river as it poured into the sea, as salmon poured upstream under a different law of gravity, to spawn; a symphony of cans directed by air currents cooling one batch over against one wall, while a batch in another section sang together because they’d been removed from the cookers at about the same time, and near the entrance other batches with micro differences in the amount of meat or oil or water in each caused the timing of their contraction to be in sync with others of different composition.

“Tink, tonk, tenk, tunk, tank, tink.”

“Twop. Tap tap tap … twop. Tap tap tap, twop. Tap tap twop, tap tap twop.”

One of the things Jim most loved about living on a boat was that he “owned his time.” In a month or so, I will take the rest of his ashes to set adrift in a paper boat on Blind Bay, one of his favorites.

We are raindrops. Nothing more. During our vanishingly small moment in time, we sing a single note in an infinite symphony of causation, far more vast  and complex than we can ever comprehend.

This is a day to put off errands, to stay close, to listen.

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About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

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