Panama, rain, fun, mud, and a special walk home
Before we moved to Panama in 1958, I am not sure I had any strong feelings about rain. I most likely looked at it as interfering with my being outdoors and playing, roughhousing etc. I can say that I have always disliked snow, or perhaps hated it. I liked it for a short time, then I believe it caused me to become depressed, or perhaps that is too strong a word, drained might be a better expression Then we moved to Panama. My dislike of snow still continues, but my relationship with rain, I am happy to say, changed and to this day I like rainy days more than sunny ones.
I found that when it rained in Panama, it was an invitation for me to go crazy, wild, run around in circles, get muddy and roll around in the grass, or mud, whichever was closest. Blitz, our dog, a boxer who we adopted when I was a junior in high school, got it and we would often just act like brothers having fun.
In Ft. Gulick, I guess the movie theater was about a mile and a half from our home in Gulick Heights. I like going to the movies by myself and loved the walk home at night. I would think with a shiver of delight (12 years old boys are crazy that way) if I would be eaten on the way home by some sort of panther. I doubt panther's want to have much to do with humans. We probably smell funny to them anyway. I guess over the years until I got my driver’s license, I will surmise I made that walk at least twice a month in the dark. I would like to share one evening walk when I was 12, and it was a cloudy, windy, raining, cat’s, and dog’s kind of night. Just like in the movies.
It was a long movie, don’t remember what it was. I think I went to the movies more for the large buttered popcorn and the M @ M’s, I mixed in with it and of course a large Coke. A true delicacy for a growing young man. As I left the movie theater, I was delighted to hear loud thunder in the distance but could tell that it was coming our way. It was still dry, but the air had that negative-ozone smell to it that I find so energizing. It was during summer vacation, a Thursday night, around 10:30, so the traffic was just about zero. I guess I got about a quarter of a mile into my walk home, right around the street where the PX was when there was this very bright lighting and a crack so loud that I ducked…..as if that was helpful. I remember making an exclamation that I won’t repeat there. Then I started laughing and jumping up and down. Unbecoming of a 12-year-old, but it was just me and God, so who cares.
A strong breeze came through which was welcomed, then a few drops of rain, then a few more, suddenly it was like someone turned over a bucket of cold water on me. My first impulse was to run for cover. There was a bus stop just a few feet away….but I thought, I am already soaked, so might as well enjoy it. So I started walking on the sidewalk, then I got off of the sidewalk and started splashing in the puddles that quickly formed. Then, I started running and sliding on the grass and rolling around. After about ten minutes I stopped playing because I had to get my breath and started walking again. After a few minutes, a Military Police car stopped and asked if I needed a ride. I said no thank you and the MP asked me if I was sure about that, for it was late. I guess it was 11 PM. I said, no thanks again, and he shrugged and drove off. He was probably relieved, I was like a sponge, dripping wet.
When I got around to the commissary I sat downon the bus stop there and just enjoyed the rain and the wind. I was a little cold, but I will take that over hot any day. A dog came over and put his head on my knee and I petted it for a few minutes, even though it shook itself in front of me and covered me over with water and some mud….I laughed about it. After a few minutes of petting the dog and becoming great friends, I got up to continue the last leg of my journey home. As I was walking I decided to walk down the center of the highway. The rain was still coming and the water on the pavement was running fast. So I decided to lie down in the middle of the street and just let the water run over me. The dog was still with me and at first started to whine because it may have thought I was hurt. I petted it and it lay down with me with his/her head on my stomach. I closed my eyes and then suddenly a bright light was in my eyes. The MP was coming back and pulled around me asking me “What the *&#&^* I was doing. Very unprofessional I thought. I responded that I was enjoying the weather. He laughed but said I really need to get off the road and walk home. So I got up and continued my journey.
For the rest of the way the dog and I played around a bit but as we approached Gulick Heights he turned around and started back to his home. I walked up the hill and finally got to building 522 my home. We had the whole first floor because we were such a large family. Two apartments made into one. The Crouch family lived there before we did and we still keep in touch with them, mostly on Facebook. I find it really cool that we still in touch. Mrs. Crouch and my mother were great friends and even though I never got in contact with the kids after they moved to the other side of the Canal Zone, well I saw Alice in 1971, there is still a connection, at least for me.
I stood under the house and found that I was getting really cold. I also knew that I had to wring out my clothes before I went upstairs. So I did that and walked into our living room. My mom and dad were still up and when I walked in they both gave me a funny look and then started laughing. What have you been doing, son, my dad asked. Oh, I replied, just having fun and enjoying the rain.
I took a shower and dried off. One of the great pleasures of life, after having fun in the rain, is to experience dryness. I went to bed and slept like a baby. So yes, to this day I still love rain, cloudy skies, fog, thunder, and lightning. Best of all, however, is the feeling that comes before a rain, when the air is filled with the smell of coming joy, and I feel energized in ways the sun can never do for me.
Loving rain is a very good attribute to develop. I remember one of the monks who I took care of, who had my name. He was Mark 1 and I was, you got it, Mark 2. When I first started taking care of him, he told me one day when it was raining, that he loved watching the weather. So I took him down to our cloister garden and we sat and simply watched, enjoying the weather and each other’s company.
A place of rest
If there is a place of rest when we first go home, Lord,
I want a place with low lying clouds,
dark and swirling, round and round,
with the smell that comes before it pours
that makes me want to laugh, dance and cry,
for this has always made me a little child for a time which
is the true lightness of being filled with joy.----Br.MD