Spring rain fell hard. So did I. Raindrops rippled the water running down the river and the water running in all the ditches. I spread bigger ripples in the big ditch up near the west boundary of the ranch.
I rode the small motorcycle across the river and up the ranch. I parked the motorcycle and put a piece of driftwood I'd picked up for that purpose under the kickstand so it wouldn't sink into soft, wet dirt and let the machine fall onto its side. I unstrapped my shovel from the luggage rack and walked up and down small ditches, removing mud dams I'd put in a few days earlier. They were to cause water to spill out of the ditches and spread across the wild meadow, irrigating grasses toward lush growth. I put in new dams to spread water where it hadn't yet reached.
I enjoyed the small rain that began to speckle the water on the meadow. It hadn't been long since every storm brought snow. The rain spoke to me of spring warming toward summer, even though the raindrops and the small wind that carried them felt suddenly cold after the sun retreated behind clouds.
Geese, ducks, phalaropes, dozens of species of birds rejoiced in the rain. I tried their approach - praise, joy - and proceeded with the business at hand. Wind increased. Rain increased, and the day turned colder. I worked back toward the motorcycle, building a few dams as I went, but leaving behind more and more work on my way to my transportation home, to shelter and a warm fire.
I picked up the wood under the kickstand, kicked the start lever, roared away from intensely pursuing rain and wind, and approached the big ditch, which I crossed on a thick board. The rear wheel slid as it tried to mount the rain-slick board, and I splashed down into the rapidly running cold water. Briefly, I was completely submerged. The still-running machine fell on its side, held above the water by board and bank.
I stood up, waist deep in ice-cold water, and pushed the bike upright. I cracked the throttle, using the power of the machine's spinning drive wheel to pull me up out of the water onto the grassy meadow. I ran beside the accelerating vehicle, jumped, landed riding on the wet seat, and accelerated down the meadow. Water poured from me. The wind drove me on. I was so soaked it didn't matter that rain poured down with renewed enthusiasm from the dark sky that enveloped the cold meadow.
I roared down the sandy bank, splashed across the shallow river crossing, up the other bank, up the rising meadow, around the barn, and into the yard. My wife, children, sister-in-law, and her husband gathered on the front porch, as if to welcome me in from the storm. Actually, they were taking a last brief shelter before running through the rain to a vehicle. They were going to seek a restaurant lunch in town.
And Laura, dear wife that she is, observed my soaked-to-the-bone state and said, "We'll wait for you to change if you want to go with us."
But I said, "No. I'm going to take a hot bath."
AND that's what I did. There was still plenty of hot water on the wood-fired kitchen stove. I got down the galvanized washtub, filled it, and soaked.
I thought of all the birds still out there in the storm, showing their gratitude for the earth, for rain. And right then, as hot water soaked out the last of spring's sudden deep chill, I offered gratitude that I was human, with a roof above me, against which wind-driven rain hammered harmlessly, and with hot water to soak away the cold.