My 205-year-old house leans a bit to the east. So that’s where the water runs off.
Builder Timothy Morse Jr. may have put gutters on the house in 1817; gutters have been around at least since the time of Christ, and V-shaped gutters were popular here in Massachusetts in the early colonial era. But by the time I moved into Timothy Morse Jr.’s house, the gutters were in disrepair, and my parsimonious approach to replacing the gutters was to remove the gutters.
Remember Labor Day? When it rained on our drought?
My wife has to work on Labor Day, so she asks a favor of me. Marriage is an endless system of favors, large and small, and after 35 years I’m completely prepared to say “yes,” because I’ve learned that most of the favors are small.
Please harvest the rainwater, she says.
She normally does this herself, I guess. I’ve never been involved. Collect the rain in a 5-gallon bucket where it flows off the roof, and carry it to the rain barrel, because there’s more rain flowing off the roof than is dripping into the rain barrel. (Ah, the rain barrel. I take such pride in this big bright blue rain barrel. Just the fact that it’s sitting there next to my house makes me a good environmentalist!)
It’s raining so steadily, she says; maybe harvest the rain once an hour.
No problem, darling. I’m on it.
Sometimes the 5-gallon bucket is too heavy for me, she says. I have to dump some water out before I can carry it to the rain bucket.
Okay, no problem, I reply. (Good husband.)
It’s raining pretty hard, she says. Maybe every 45 minutes.
No worries. I obediently set my iPhone alarm for 45 minutes.
Love you! Have a good day!
She doesn’t warn me that a 5-gallon bucket of water weighs 41.7 lbs. I’ve carried a 50-lb. suitcase before, but at our house, the water is pouring off the roof into a bucket situated behind an enormous Japanese stewartia tree, and to get there, you have to re-enact that scene from Sleeping Beauty where Prince Charming hacks his way through the thicket, and do it carrying a 41-lb. bucket of water.
And the rain barrel — the destination for this sloshy cargo — is not on the east side of the house, but the west. To get there means lugging your liquid freight to the north corner of the house, across the breezeway, around the screen porch, out into the backyard, past the sugar maple, through a thicket of honey locust trees that I didn’t even plant, they just sprang up to prove that Malcolm was right in Jurassic Park when he said, “Life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh, well, there it is.”
So I get my bucket to the rain barrel and dump it, and trudging through the rain I return the empty bucket to the east side of the house. The rain intensifies, I reset my iPhone alarm for 35 minutes, I do it all again, I reset to 25 minutes. I lay a fire in the living room, I stand in front of it to dry out. I try to calculate how long my wife’s work shift is. Is she working a 50-gallon shift? 100 gallons? I dump another bucket of rainwater into the barrel, it seems to be splashing over the sides. Did I actually overfill an entire rain barrel in a single Labor Day downpour?
A rabbit lives under a shrub next to our rain barrel. Today, through our kitchen window, I look out to find him looking back at me. He’s soggy. You know how a rabbit’s mouth naturally turns down, in something like disapproval? This rabbit’s mouth is turned down even more, more than you thought a rabbit’s mouth could ever turn down.
Through the window, I can read his lips:
“Gutters? Gonna finally put in gutters? Please?”
Doug Brendel is still attempting to dry out in his home on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Check him out at DougBrendel.com.