"Goldberry's Washing Day"

by Will Baker


It is mid morning and a gentle rain is falling. There is an all day lake weather advisory in effect, so I shall not be sailing on Lake Champlain today. It was humid overnight, but not to the point of being oppressive. Thankfully, Northern New England and the Pacific Northwest have something in common: while the rest of the country may be baking in heat, we usually are not. Therefore we had a good night sleep.

We need the rain. Although we are not quite having a drought, it has been very dry this year. The grass in my yard crunches under foot as I walk about, and the local corn isn’t as tall as it should be. The levels of the lake and creeks are below average, and when a brief shower does pass by, the birds will descend upon the puddles that collect in my dooryard as if the opportunity were at a premium. My garden needs the rain also, which is picking up as I write. The sky has darkened and we have turned the lights on in the house. I can smell the bacon cooking. It reminds me of a mid-winter morning.

I had a friend over for dinner last night. The plan was to have a nice dinner and visit for a while after the meal before retiring early, so that we would be fresh for an all day sail. I woke early, looked out the bedroom window and saw the rain falling softly. But that’s okay. As my friend says, "when one door closes another one opens." We sipped coffee sitting in chairs under the garage overhang and watched the rainfall. A wonderful aroma rose from the newly moistened ground. The accumulated dust and debris of a prolonged dry period is being washed away. All is right with my little corner of the world. Of course, my well-laid plans are being swept away as well. But the situation is what it is. I could go out side and try to shout the rain down. But I suspect it wouldn’t matter. I further believe that the trees and animals wouldn’t much appreciate my boorish, meddling behavior. I imagine that I am a character in a Tolkien novel. I am Tom Bombadil, and today is Goldberry’s washing day, too cool. It is a day for conversation; a day to sip wine, read and perhaps pen a few lines. Lake Champlain is not going anywhere. Maybe I shall go sailing tomorrow.

It is important to plan for the future, so long as we do not loose sight of the present, which really is all that we have. It seems to me that we have a "hard-wired" tendency to plan. Given the usefulness of such a predisposition, it is entirely possible that this tendency is present in the gene pool today due to natural selection. Be that as it may, this tendency is most definitely a coin with at least two sides. While the ability to plan was and is a very useful life-skill, it also sometimes gets in the way. Young children do not plan; they just exist in the moment. They savor and revel in their experiences. They wring as much life out of it as they can manage. And then they grow up and in the process of doing so they learn many things, including how to plan, and forget some things also, such as living in a state of wonder. This is fertile ground for irony. For it takes adults with the ability to plan to nurture and raise the children, yet the freedom of the children is sometimes resented. The old saw "youth is wasted on the young" demonstrates this point. Adults look at children and sometimes feel a sense of loss or nostalgia over what was but is no more. And this is where the irony lies.

One does not have to be a child to live in the moment. It just takes a little more effort. However I would argue that this effort is well worth it. No…it is vital. Moment to moment, the present is all we have. The past is what was. It is a collection of recollections, which can be brought forth to help or hinder us. The future is other. While out of prudence we may think that we should give up some of our present in consideration for it, we must be very careful. It is easy to give up the present entirely as we make and reach one goal after another while never really experiencing the journey. Imagine your lifetime as a car ride. When you are born you get in the car, near the end of your life you are just arriving at grandmother’s house. Imagine sleeping the whole journey, and waking up just in time to expire. It seems to me that this happens to many, many people.

Breakfast is on the table. I am not quite sure what this day will bring, other than an absence of sailing. However I do know that with good food and good folks, anything is possible. So, plan well…but not too hard. Be prepared, but do not give up the moment. For if we do, then we are giving up the context in which we live our lives.


(Essay Collection)