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a walk in the rain

Currently I’m on a business trip to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. RTP is located in between the cities of Raleigh and Durham. During the week I was kept pretty busy, and I’ll have to work tomorrow also, but today (Saturday) was mine. Unfortunately, it rains a lot in North Carolina in the spring, and today was no exception.

Since I may be away from home longer than usual on this trip, I brought a guitar along with me. So I sat on the bed in my hotel room and practiced Sarah McLachlan songs for a few hours, which helped me release all my pent-up work tension.

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Eventually my fingers got tired, so I decided to drive to the North Carolina Museum of Art, located in Raleigh. Driving along the highway toward Raleigh, I noticed a sign for a state park. It had stopped raining, at least temporarily, and I suddenly decided that today I needed a walk in the woods more than the art museum. This part of North Carolina is heavily wooded, and this time of year the trees are dense and bright emerald.

I found a parking space, picked up a free map of the park and started walking along one of the many trails. Not being completely foolish, I did bring an umbrella along. This turned out to be a wise precaution.

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As I walked, I started to hear the sound of rain on the leaves above me. Quietly at first, just sprinkles for a while, then stronger. It took a few minutes before the rain began dripping down on me, but by then I had the umbrella out.

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Last summer, Chris, Susan and I went for a walk in the woods in a park near Kansas City and got completely drenched by a sudden thunderstorm. That was fun, but I like listening to the rain more when I have an umbrella up. :-) The moss and fungus on the forest floor like the humidity just fine, thank you very much.

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When I got back to the car, I continued on toward the museum. But before I got there I found myself in a driving mood. I just drove around, with no plan or goal. I didn’t even have a map with me. Over the afternoon, I drove around and through Raleigh, wandered the maze of roads west to Durham and Chapel Hill, then south and east again to Raleigh. Since it was overcast, and the twisty roads are cut directly out from the forest, most of the time I didn’t even know what direction I was going. Several times I discovered myself on a road I’d already been on an hour before. It’s a beautiful area, though a little claustrophobic for someone raised in the wide open spaces of a farm in Iowa.

Late in the afternoon, at the side of the road somewhere southwest of Raleigh, tucked back amongst the trees, my peripheral vision saw what I thought were gravestones. I turned back around at my first opportunity and parked, got out and walked around. It was a cemetery, but not like any I’d ever seen. There was no fence and no sign, and no church nearby that I could see, with fewer than a dozen gravestones sharing the grove with the tall trees.

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It was completely silent. The rain had stopped, and there was no traffic on the road. In the gloom under the trees, I saw that someone had left a small vase with fresh flowers at one of the graves. Then, on the far side of the cemetery I saw something that looked like a small statue. I went over slowly to take a closer look.

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The marker was for a World War II veteran who had passed away in 1991. The flowers here were fresh also. I just stood there for a long while, not really sure what to feel. I thought that it would be a good accomplishment for a life, to have an effect on someone else so that they would want to remember you well when you were gone. When the rain started again, I walked back to the car. I got back to the hotel just after dark.

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