By Maggie O’Neill
I wake up full of Island energy, look out the window and see a dark navy sky. “Oh no,” I think, “it’s going to rain! No beach today.” True to its color, the sky opens up and the rain begins to fall. As the storm builds, I find myself mesmerized. I pay attention to the sound of the rain as it hits the roof and windows. It’s like nature’s music, and I listen intently as the symphony unfolds. An unexpected peace engulfs me. I settle back into the old, overstuffed couch and feel myself start to relax. All the things on my “to do” list are suddenly canceled. I now have forced, free time handed down from above.
The wild storm outside seems to underscore the coziness of my Shore home. Original hard wood flooring creates a warm atmosphere. The knotty pine paneling is polished and seems to shine against the fieldstone of the fireplace. An old, nautical lamp lends a glow to the room, as only a lamp lit in gray daylight can do. It’s comfy. I smile and turn my thoughts to rainy day musings, inexplicably feeling the urge to finally read the book on LBI history sitting on my coffee table. I start with the chapter on storms.
After a morning of dozing and reading, my lazy bones start to wake up, itching for a way to spend this gift of time. The rhythm of the storm beckons me. I throw on an old, yellow slicker over my shorts and tee, grab my knee high, red rubber boots and head out into the music of the rain. The weather gods forbid me to take my cell phone. Like a child, I delight in the deep running river of water in the gutters and laugh at the waves on the boulevard. I actually skip in their wake, as warm rain mixes with the cold drain water from the bay, splashing over the top of my boots. What the heck, I think, I would be just as wet if I were swimming in the ocean. Throwing back my hood, I stick out my tongue to catch the rain drops. A car goes by, fast enough to produce another wave, and I smile as the driver gives me the thumbs up sign.
I walk the boulevard for longer than I do in sunshine, marveling at the grayness, the water, the sound of the wind and rain. The wet, salt air is thick with the smell of the ocean and it fills me with happiness. I stop in an open deli and shake off the water, like a retriever just out of a lake. The man behind the counter smiles and we share a laugh about the weather. I buy a cup of hazelnut coffee and sit by the window. The aroma is wonderful and the hot beverage soothes my spirit.
Soon it’s time to bathe again in Mother Nature’s outdoor shower. My hood is down, my hair is soaking wet, and I have not felt this good in years. The rubber of my boots makes squishing sounds as I wade back to my little cottage. Stepping into the house, I realize that these walls have weathered a hundred storms, many much worse than this one. I am comforted at the thought and feel safe and protected in my little cottage.
By early evening the rain stops. I pour a glass of wine, dry off one of the chairs on my deck and sit. In the quiet of twilight I hear so many things that I often miss, usually too busy to notice the sounds of the day as it turns into evening. Birds chirp, one last roll of thunder echoes far off, and drops of rain plop intermittently onto the ground, like a soft drum beat. The damp night air carries the muffled sound of neighbors laughing. I sigh with contentment and take a sip of wine. The lights in the homes around me start to flicker on, one by one, like fireflies in the dark night. Life is good.
Today was better than a day at the beach. Today the Island gave me a gift: time to experience the beauty of the rain. I survived the day without my cell phone, email, or text messages. I feel cleansed, refreshed, invigorated. Beach rain is different, I realize. Beach rain is special, and I am grateful for this late August storm.