Now that the Bonettis have headed home, it's time to unload the slate from the back of our heavily-laden truck. It's a laborious process—Tyler sits in the bed of the truck, taking each tile and tapping it lightly with a hammer. We've read that a ringing sound is good, and means the slate will last. A dull thud means the slate is cracked or compromised in some way.
Many of the pieces elicit sickening clunks, and quite a few of them break with light handling, but all in all, we have at least eight hundred usable tiles. After sorting the good slate into piles, we carry them over to the pallets we've rigged up to store them. After a few hours, as we're nearing the end of the project, black clouds roll in off the mountains and it begins to rain.
While drops pitter patter, I scurry around shutting windows and bringing important tools inside. Then, mostly sheltered from the rain by the trees, we keep stacking. Eventually, the shower turns to a downpour; soon we're utterly soaked to the bone. Our clothing is rendered utterly useless, and hangs on us like floppy laundry from a broken washing machine. I haven't been this waterlogged since we cycled through Transylvania!
Still, we press on. The mud underfoot has become sticky and deep, as puddles pool on the trampled ground. The short path from our truck to the slate pallet is getting treacherous—if I slip and fall, and I'm liable to decapitate myself on the slate's sharp edges! Okay, maybe not, but I tread carefully anyway, and smile thinking of my three-year-old nephew, Eli, when he said to Tyler's sister Amanda, "It's trech-us out here, Mama!"
By the time we're through stacking, we're completely drenched and mud-splattered, too. We were going to head to our friend Allan's place to attend a benefit for his Iditarod-going friend, but there's no way we're leaving our mudpit of a home in the state we're in. Next, we slosh down the hill to our clearing, and I insist we clean off before going in our tiny camper.
So, we strip down and head to the well, splashing in mud puddles along the way, feeling free and slightly feral in this messy, muddy life of ours. At the well, Tyler devises the perfect bathing system, which I can't believe we haven't tried before: one person pumps, while the other holds the hose. We soap up quickly, and then scream and squeal and hyperventilate as the other sprays us. We even get brain-freeze when washing the muck out of our hair!
At last, we're dry and cozy in our little camper. The rain has stopped for now, making room for a thick layer of mist which has rolled in from the west. The white, ghostly fog hangs suspended, draped over our lush, deep-green landscape. The scene, played to the ceaseless theme of twittering birds all around is truly magical.