Old Rain

Every childhood has a Radley house, a Boo around the corner opening our eyes to a world that doesn’t appear or work the way we thought it does or will.

Old Rain spooked my little world. Some said he was a freakish child abandoned by a troupe of carnies, others said he was a lost baby Bigfoot come south. When he wasn’t brooding in a boarded-up house in Pittsboro, he haunted the woods and hollows feeding the creeks and streams that feed the Skuna River. I don’t know why we called him Old Rain, but what else is the Skuna or any other river for that matter except rain that’s found its way from hills to the bottoms and over-wintered in owl-haunted sloughs, steeped in the character of the land, distilled and aged in the hands of Almighty God, and become an inspiration of the earth itself?

We lose imaginary monsters under the baggage of adulthood, so I tucked Old Rain away after finding far more frightening things than furtive whisperings on lonely pathways. Now I believe he was a faunus of the little river bottoms and low wooded hills that my Choctaw ancestors knew and loved. They would call him bopoli, one of the little people who threw sticks, cones, and stones to make a stir in the woods. My Welsh ancestors would call him Cernunnos, the Green Man, a living vestige of the vital, priapic spirit of vast, virgin forests.

Old Rain in mind and memory is a companion in those places I cherish most: bright spring hills, close summer woods and frosty winter fields. Hold your Radleys close. Make of them your own magic.

Faun Whistling to a Blackbird (1875), Arnold Böcklin

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