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My part of the planet is currently experiencing sporadic, recurrent rainbombs. Years back, we made the joke, “In Ithaca, what do you call a day of sun after six days of rain?” The answer was “Monday.” But it wasn’t just that we longed to spend a sunny day outside on the weekend rather than inside in our cubes, it was also that slugs dripped from open garage doors. An infant’s first taste of blackcaps was from a seat in only one of its mother’s arms – because the other held an umbrella. Newborn snakes slithered into the house and found refuge behind the refrigerator or inside a stair post. Those rains were not nothing, but they were also not torrential. They were quiet, steady. Claustrophobic, timeless almost. Ten AM looked a lot like 6 PM. We called it “the summer that wasn’t.”

Rain, like so much else, has evolved. It has become violent. Fountains open in the concrete walls of basements and water seeps up through the floor. If only the macadam lilypads we call roadways would become too dangerous for motorists to drive their high-speed, steel-and-composite, enclosed personal extensions! Instead, if anything, people seem to drive more and more, relaxing in cool dry air conditioning as they pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One of the reasons there is no life on Mars is that there is too much CO2 in its atmosphere, but most people don’t think there’s a lesson to learn here. They don’t think that’s reason enough to – say – stay home, bike, or walk. This is “the swamp summer.”

Marsh marigold, willow, milkweed, buttonbush, basswood – the greeny, water-loving denizens of my neighborhood provide food and shelter for birds, frogs, turtles, fish, muskrats, chipmunks, squirrels, bees, mice, foxes, people, mosquitos, slugs, molds, lichens, funguses, flies, worms, chickens, and fireflies. The ecstasy that is Damp Mother Earth’s shade-lined deer path is the reason I left New Mexico so long ago. The soil there was like flour. Nothing could grow. Nothing was green. But here there is anise hyssop, here the ditches are lined with yarrow and tulsi and yellow dock, here the mallow and switchgrass crowd one another for space. They leave a square inch here for clay-covered rocks, there they carpet a few centimeters over with moss. Water is life.

Just because you are in a rain storm so severe that you cannot see two feet in front of you, and bullet-velocity raindrops bury themselves in the inch-deep pits they stab into the flooded ground, to the point that even your $1600 rain jacket and Ortlieb panniers have been penetrated, it does not mean that you will have to be cold and wet all night. You have four walls, a Mitsubishi air pump, an energy recovery fan, a stack of towels and a lover. Scientists say that in our solar system there are 23 moons, asteroids, and planets with water, possibly oceans; but they’re including Mars in that count because they think it might have had water on it 2.5 billion years ago. They also include places where all the water is ice. And this is not a piece about ice. And none of those celestial objects have water like we do here on my piece of the Earth. My piece is water-logged, saturated, and sopping, the sogginess of a place that is getting twice its rain because the arid face of another place is cracking under a 125°F heat dome that will not relent. We live with contradictions, as Alix Dobkin pointed out, the Natalie Wynn of her day.

I am taking a shower in my clean porcelain tub with its Godzilla curtain and $80 handmade all natural fiber bath mat. That bitch takes an hour to dry at the laundromat. I am taking a shower on a polka-dotted, wooden platform hauled by two split-apart fat-tire tandem bikes. The shower bags hang from a lattice-like, metal frame. The water was warmed by the sun and I am slathered in Dr. Bronners. I am showering beneath a water-filled tractor-tire inner tube that was hoisted into the sunny air earlier in the day. I am standing in the pistil of a flower-shaped space, fenced in by sunflowers spiraling out from me and shielding me from the eyes of the road. I yank on a cord for the water when I need it. I glisten with cleanliness. I am golden and wet and ecstatic. I am bathing in an almost unbearably cold granite-walled quarry. I am in a steamer at the Y. I am in a steaming bathtub where hot water trickles continuously out of the tap and I have lost the power of speech. Pillows of steam hold up my head. My legs are covered with street grit kicked up by my wheels as I bike through the puddling road ways. Water drips off the brim of my cap and takes refuge on the lenses of my eyeglasses. I have lost the power of sight. I am pink and slick and alive. I am one big sense organ. Water is life.


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