LAST NIGHT it rained

LAST NIGHT it rained here on Pine Point. In February! Despite the misplaced timing there was a certain satisfaction in awakening at 3:00am and hearing the soft moaning of trees and the steady rhythm of raindrops on the old cabin roof. As I lay there I was reminded of the many nights I have fallen asleep to the lullaby of the rain. And why a cabin roof is the perfect place to listen. And of a passage I once wrote in a book, ‘Fawn Island’:
There are many good and thoughtful people who believe, quite sincerely, that the main purpose of a cabin roof is to keep the rain off your head. Though widely held, this is a shallow and almost certainly erroneous interpretation of the history and function of cabins. I am quite sure that, could we pierce deeply enough the mists of the past, we would find someone named Waurnchf! saying to his mate (name unknown) during a storm, “This cave isn’t working out at all–I can’t hear a thing. Let’s build a log cabin so we can listen to the rain on the roof.”
Thus was the cabin invented, to be followed by further design evolutions like the tent, the lean-to, and the Empire State Building. (The latter, of course, is a complete perversion of the original intent, as only those on the top floor can hear the rain and, because of a poor choice of building materials, they can’t hear it either.) Even the modern house, huge and multi-leveled and overly stuffed and insulated, is poorly designed to fulfill its original purpose, allowing its inhabitants to listen to the rain on the roof.
But a cabin… especially an old cabin, richly aged and mellowed like a fine violin… a night rain on its roof is the sweetest music, the most soothing lullaby…. And so for a long time I listen, imagining all that the rain means, all the good it is doing in the woods. Tiny hair mosses are uncurling from their tight brown coils. Brittle caribou lichens are soaking it up, becoming soft and pliable. Polypody ferns and twinflower and goldthread, sarsaparilla and saskatoon, bunchberry and birch, all replenish themselves as the rain runs off the bedrock, finding clefts and crevices where the tiniest probing roots await.
Under my blankets I imagine the lush moistness of the air and all the earth-locked scents, sweet and strong, that the rain releases, listening all the while to the subtle, shifting rhythms of the rain on the roof….
(From my book, Fawn Island, University of Minnesota Press)

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