Time for rain, giant pumpkins, and fleece

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Tis the season when I stand in the rain every morning and evening urging Annie to leave the doorway and “go potty,” when I pile up damp towels and soggy shoes, when the sun is but a memory. The rainy season has begun, and the snowbirds are heading to Arizona.
It happened so quickly. Last week, I lived on the deck in the sun, reading, writing, playing music, doing yoga, snuggling with the dog or just lying flat out soaking up the warmth and light. Did you know that many of us who live on the Oregon coast are seriously short of vitamin D? It’s true.
We hadn’t had any measurable rain for two months. That’s normal in many places, but not here. The lawns were turning brown, and for the first time ever, fleas showed up at our house, finding Annie’s dense fur a fabulous playground. After a couple days of her hiding in her crate and literally dragging her tail, we made an emergency trip to the vet, thinking she was sick, only to find she was infested with fleas. An expensive triple-pronged pharmaceutical attack later, she’s feeling better.
The leaves have been falling for weeks, and now I understand why I should have raked them up. They have become a soggy brown mat on the lawn, now joined by the season’s first fallen branches. The bird bath, which had gone dry, is now a floating pool of pine needles. Although I did pack in a load of pellets last week, I never cleaned out the gutters, so waterfalls cascade right over my front door. I’m wondering how I’m going to keep my spa cover from flying off in today’s high winds; last year’s winds ripped all the straps off.
This is just the beginning. The weather forecasters say we will see the sun again on Wednesday and Thursday before the rain returns. Meanwhile, although I still have my tan lines, I’ll be putting on my rain suit to walk the dog. A neighbor stopped Saturday to tell me I was awfully dedicated to be walking Annie in the rain, but nine months out of the year, if we don’t walk in the rain, we don’t walk at all.
There are bonuses to the arrival of the rain. The mushrooms are popping up, just in time for the annual mushroom festival held in Yachats every October. People are hanging Halloween decorations—I’ve got my orange lights ready to string in the front windows. They had 100-pound pumpkins at Fred Meyer Saturday. And Christmas is coming.
I’ll miss going out without a jacket, but it is kind of nice to put on the layers of fleece and read by the flickering light of the pellet stove while the rain patters on the skylights.
When my brother visited in May, he wanted to know why everyone he met kept talking about the weather. Well, that’s because it grabs and keeps our attention around here. What are we going to do today? Well, let’s check the weather.
Wherever you are, try to stay dry and warm, but if you get wet, know it will feel fabulous when you change into dry clothes.

Where There’s Water . . .

I should have known. Wetlands means wet feet. Annie and I visited the new Beaver Creek State Natural Area just south of Newport, OR, today. It’s a beautiful state park, all new and shiny, smelling of fresh-cut wood and grass. Trails padded with grass and wood chips lead upward to great vistas and downward though the rushes toward the creek.

We headed south on a pleasant trail. When we passed an opening to the creek, I pulled Annie back, saying, “Oh no. We’re not getting wet today.” As the grass rose around us, I gazed at miles of waving grasses and distant hills in varying shades of purple, gray and tan. Just as I was wishing for the 10th time that I had brought my camera, the ground gave way beneath my feet. Sploosh! Annie and I were in mud up to her belly and my calves. We walked on a little ways, hoping the ground would firm up, but it didn’t. Sploosh, sploosh, sploosh. We turned back.

Off the side of the trail where the ground is solid, there’s a plastic dock, accessed by a plywood bridge. If Annie waded in there, she could get clean, I thought. She was thirsty, already drinking the murky water. I stepped onto the dock, felt it rocking dangerously and decided I was better off sitting down. Meanwhile, Annie leaned over the edge, drinking. I relaxed in the warm breeze. Ahh.

Suddenly, splash! My pup, who just discovered two weeks ago that she could swim and who has thrown herself into every puddle since then, jumped in. It was deep. She tried desperately to climb back onto the dock but couldn’t get a grip on the plastic surface. She panicked, desperately splashing, her nails slipping off the dock. Still holding her leash, I struggled to guide her over to the shallow side, willing to jump in if I had to. Just when it looked as if she might drown, she finally paddled around the dock to the shore. She shook a few times and pulled me toward the car. She’s traumatized, I thought. But then she saw another trail. She headed right for the water. “We’re wet enough,” I said.

And so, with NPR’s “Fresh Air” providing commentary in the background, we drove home, utterly soaked. Every now and then, we turned to grin at each other. Another adventure survived.

Moral: This is a great park. You can hike, kayak, canoe, or simply enjoy wide open spaces from the many benches scattered around. Take Highway 101 to Oregon’s Milepost 149 and turn east. The turnoff and the parking lot by the visitors’ center are well-marked. If you don’t want wet feet, watch your step. If you want to see it all, wear tall boots and carry towels. Lots of towels. Don’t forget the camera.