The peace of rain

Schnebly Hill vistaIt was raining when I woke this morning. Not an electricity-charged toad-strangler, but a quiet rain, a thoughtful rain.

I considered not walking at all. I was cranky and stiff after a fitful night’s sleep. It had been a rough week and I still carried stress in my neck and shoulders.

But I grab an old fold-up umbrella and step into the morning damp anyway. The umbrella efficiently snaps open, but I discover two ribs have worn through ties at their tips, and the silk slides back up toward the apex of the crown.

No matter, I am off.

I look back at the house for a moment as I walk up the drive. The nandina bends against the storm, its branches first bowing to the weight of the rain and then springing upward as the wet drips away. Large drops from the eaves hit the porch rail and burst into dozens of droplets that fell to the ground below.

It is a day of novel movement and complex energy. A day of discovery.

I discover that my sight is muted, allowing hearing and touch to push to the fore. The turtle rain against the outside of the umbrella sounds a musical counterpoint, each note altered by the angle of the silk cover. I strive to capture the motif’s pattern as a larger drop hits like the final riff of an exuberant drummer.

Farther away, I hear the rain contacting each leaf of the trees I pass under. Hard. Then soft. Then brittle. Each drop echoes the texture of branch and leaf. A plane passes overhead, its roar muted to a growling rumble. As I stroll, I find that I am moving slower but seeing more. I start to center and my breathing deepens.

The rain blows into my face, softly misting my glasses, and I twirl the umbrella canopy on its aluminum shaft, trying to position the “short side” away from my face. My arms are getting damp, small drops clinging to the short hairs, then running down my forearm in larger streams. As I swing my arms, my fingertips encountered the rain concretely, each finger sharply pinged with rain.

Should I turn back? No, I decide. I can handle this. I won’t melt. I stiffen my back to the discomfort and trudged forward.

Patched asphalt on the road ahead becomes a series of black sightless mirrors that shatter in the wake of a car whooshing past. The car’s momentum scoops up mist from the road, creating a cloud entourage that scurries along underneath its carriage.

As I near one house two Springer spaniels rush to the screen porch in a howling frenzy. I’ve passed them many times before—maybe I have turned into a new creature under this umbrella?

In the mist, the color palette has shrunk to mostly grays and greens. Even the wildflowers—the red of penstamen and the wild white of daisies are dimmed by the rain, their energy cloistered. The sky lowers and the horizon shortens. As I notice more details, I find my mind slowing, calming. I consciously match the pace of the rain with my steps.

I find that I am in a much smaller world than yesterday. Yesterday was sunny, with winds and clear air and wide vistas. And that difference is fine. I seek shelter, here under the umbrella against the world’s hassles and demands. I can hide here.

The birds are hiding, too. The sparrows and finches are silent; the jays chatter in the tree branches, but don’t venture into the rain. Every so often a robin darts to the ground to snatch a grub, and then dives under the drier branches to eat it.

As I approach a small pond, our resident great blue heron takes flight. Usually I can pass quite close to him, but he, too, is spooked by this new shape of human-with-umbrella.

The algae on the water shivers under the onslaught of the rain, and I turn toward home.

The rain is collecting now on the trees overhead. Each leaf gathers rain differently: On a large deciduous trees, moisture runs along the center spine and collects as a drop at the tip of each leaf. Nearby, waxy Pampas grass spires allow each drop to poise unmoving in a mosaic of miniature puddles. In the field beyond, the smaller grasses bow before the rain’s influence like carefully combed hair.

As I near home, I realize that walking in the rain this morning has become a meditation, a gratefulness for gifts given. I stomp my feet as I enter the garage, and collapse the umbrella in a shower of drops.

I feel calmer, more centered.

It has been a good start for the morning’s work, this gathering of peace in the rain.

Red Rock Fever–Falling in love all over again

Snoopy Rock near Sedona, AZMy father was a rock hound, so I developed my love of geology early. He’d bring home a new find and hand it to me proudly.

“This is schist,” he’d announce. Or, “Take a look at this snowflake obsidian!”  His excitement was infectious, and I got excited, too.

So when I moved to Sedona, I felt right at home. There are a lot of rocks in Sedona.  Most of them are red. Most of them have names. And over the years, they have become old friends, familiar and beloved.

At the Grand Canyon, or Bryce, or Zion, the formations have majestic names like Bridge of Sighs or Bright Angel Trail, or El Tovar, but in this red rock country, the names are more humble: Coffeepot Rock, Submarine Rock, Rabbit Ears, Lizard Head, Teapot, and the best of all, Snoopy Rock.

Sedona has a population of only fifteen thousand people, but over three million people visit every year. Sometimes foreign tourists come in tours, not speaking a word of English, but with guidebooks in hand. They’ll collar bystanders on Main Street and point to the page.

“Snoopy Rock?  Where Snoopy Rock?” they demand.

At dusk, sometimes the sun will break out under brooding purple clouds illuminating one red rock formation after another. Amazing, memorable, never the same. It’s a great traveling light show, roaring across the horizon.

From the viewpoint at Airport Mesa, there’s a grand panorama of red rocks. People will start gathering about sunset, just to participate, together, in the magnificent vista.

Some the rocks around Sedona are Hollywood famous: Cathedral Rock was in any number of Westerns. On Highway 179, Bell Rock greets visitors coming into red rock country, looking just like, you guessed it, a liberty bell.

My favorite rock, though, is Slide Rock. I met this great place long ago, when I attended high school in Flagstaff. Back then, our favorite ditch day spot was the apple-orchard picnic ground and slippery red sandstone at Slide Rock.

There, a 30-foot slide of snowmelt water tumbles through a narrow, moss-covered chute dumping sliders into a pool of frigid water. The wise locals wear old jeans, because the chute rips apart ordinary swimsuits with one slide.

Right now, in winter, the red rocks peek out under a dusting of snow. But in my dreams, red rock country is forever summer under a full moon. Then, the red rocks glow white in the warm summer nights. Eerie and unforgettable.

Red rock fever.


Circling back to the beginning: a Free Kindle mystery!

Death in Copper Town, a Pegasus Quincy MysteryAbout four years ago I decided to write a mystery series based on young rookie sheriff’s deputy who lived in the Verde Valley of Arizona.

The Verde is a unique place, an oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert, with one major river and five tributary creeks.

It is on the flight path between Mexico and points south, and the entire US and points north, which means seven kinds of hummingbirds, golden AND bald eagles, and 300 hundred + other birds to watch!


It has a huge cement plant, a salt mine, pecan orchards, wine vineyards, a thriving artists’ colony, and some of the most magnificent red rock scenery in the world.

PLUS, a real live ghost town.

In short, a milieu crying out for a mystery series to be created. I wrote five books in rough draft, and then circled back around to start rewriting and publishing. The first, DEATH in COPPER TOWN, begins the journey for my heroine, Pegasus Quincy, with her adjustment to life as a cop, in an environment very different from her native Tennessee.

As a Valentine’s gift to you this week, 2-12 through 2-16, please accept a free Kindle copy of this debut novel through Amazon using this link. Enjoy!