Some people love to splash in rain puddles, with or without rubber boots. Generally, I was not a member of that fan club. When I’d take a walk through my nearby city parks after a rainstorm, I would head for the driest part of the pavement—unless I was wearing my red rubber boots. So clad, I was fearless. Sloshing through slicks marbled with sidewalk slime and oil, I recalled my childhood ambles to and from school along the cracked and upheaved slate sidewalks of Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood. Scuffing, plopping, and spattering the puddle, I felt powerful.
Not so much as an adult. When did I begin to worry more about my shoes than my fun? The flats and pumps I wore decades ago, fashionable but fragile footwear, had no tolerance for water. My puddle avoidance strategies continued for years until in the 1990’s I traveled to central Italy. My husband Stephen and I had signed up for a two-week-long hike across the southern portion of Tuscany, on the strada bianca or gravel pathways of the region, through vineyards and barley fields and up to and through hilltop villages. Our goal was the city of Siena where we would spend a few days until our flight home from Pisa.
On the day of our approach to Siena, the sky was blue, the forests on either side of the path crackling with autumn’s discarded stalks, stems, leaves, and twigs, and our anticipation of reaching Siena, where I had spent considerable time as a student, was high. We trod on and on until we paused by a farmhouse for our mid-day picnic lunch and short rest. We should have moved on sooner. Clouds gathered on the horizon and quickly overhead moved to accompany us as we roused ourselves for the final miles to our destination.
Well along the route, a few raindrops fell on my head. Confident that the poncho in my backpack would keep me cozy, I carried on, looking much like a red plastic camel. The rain intensified, pelting us as we passed through the forest. Then, the breeze carrying those heavy drops became a strong wind. It lifted my poncho like a sail. The rain came at me from all directions, and soon I was soaked. My husband, probably a duck in his former life, was laughing and enjoying it all. At that point I squelched my whinging; why complain? My grumbles would change nothing. I decided instead to dance in the rain, to embrace all the silly wetness of my clothes and shoes. After all, they would dry—eventually.
Our little sodden group of hikers reached the hotel in Siena, formerly a private fortified palazzo from the late Middle Ages. We all shed so much water on the marble floor by the reception desk that their staff followed us around with mops and buckets. Three stories up Stephen and I reached our rooftop room, took hot showers, changed into dry clothing, and began to laugh. I admitted that the episode had been funny, especially now that I was warm and comfortable. After that trip and the realization that wet things usually dry out, I’ve fretted far less about walking in the rain and splashing through puddles.