Friday, May 12, 2023
It was a beautiful day today. The clouds were dark and clustered. A few hung down on the ground between the mountains in a hovering mist.
When I stepped outside to go grocery shopping, the clouds greeted me with a torrent of rain. I pulled my hood up.
It’s kind of useless to grab an umbrella when you’re just running out to the grocery store. By the time you get into the car, fold the umbrella, figure out how to get it across you or into the back seat without taking a bath, then do it all in reverse five minutes later… you’re really better off just taking a leisurely stroll between the raindrops.
It’s 2023 and nobody has yet figured out how to make an umbrella work when you have to get in a car. If they have, then nobody has told me about it.
Unless you’ve got a distance to go, or your hair is properly coifed, walking in the rain is really quite a lovely option. It helps to have a hat or a hood because water running into your ear can be irksome, but otherwise I’ve only ever known one person to melt when wet.
I did not have a distance to go, even though some days it feels like the entire length of Oklahoma is between me and the door to Target. The rain today was warm, light feathery drops tickling my cheeks. Everything smelled fresh and wet.
Have you ever noticed that people rarely wake up and say, “The weather is beautiful today” to mean that it’s pouring rain? When someone says it’s a beautiful day you can be pretty well assured that they mean sunny and balmy.
And I agree, sunny, balmy days are amazing. But I also think rainy days are amazing. More often than not, when I wake up to rain, my thought is beautiful weather.
I like pretty much anything the world does. I like some things more when I’m nowhere near them, like tornados, but as phenomena they are pretty impressive and awesome, in the true sense of the word.
Not all rain is created equal, though, just like not all sunny days are created equal. There’s a reason we have metaphors like “raining buckets” and use adjectives across the spectrum from “drizzling” to “downpouring”.
Sometimes it rains as if there is a great cosmic shower head with really good water pressure and it cascades down on top of you.
Sometimes it falls, like it just had an accidental run in with gravity.
Sometimes is sort of floats down, almost as if it can’t quite penetrate the air around it, and others it pelts, like it’s throwing angry daggers at the earth.
Sometimes it comes in sideways even if it’s not windy and you’d swear there was cloud somewhere with a firehose off to your left.
The metaphor raining cats and dogs has a bit of a gruesome history (look it up, or don’t if you want to remain blissfully ignorant) so perhaps we need to revise it to elephants and kangaroos. Now that would be some rain.
Rain makes cool things like rainbows. And puddles.
A summer or two ago, as I was walking the three mile loop around Harlinsdale farm after a recent rain, enjoying the explosion of wildflowers and the buzzing of dragonflies, I hit on a puddle. There is a section of the park where you get to the bottom of one hill before going up another that tends to flood, so using the word “puddle” is severely understated.
At any rate, my car was at the top of the hill and I had to decide whether to go through the puddle, or walk back a half mile to an alternate path to the car.
It was a hot, sunny day and I hadn’t melted when wet yet, so I just kept going. The puddle covered my toes. A few steps later it was up to my ankles. About halfway through I made friends with a pelican and a dolphin as the water swirled around my thighs.
I hiked my shorts up but even they were wet by the time I waded my way through that puddle.
It was spectacular.
An interesting thing about rain here: you never know when it will start but usually don’t have to wait long for it to finish. That is quite possibly why so many people here don’t use umbrellas and so many of them walk in the rain.
Every place you go has their little cliché saying and Tennessee’s is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” This happens to be true.
There have been cloudless days where I’ve gone out for a walk only to end up in the middle of a geyser half a mile from any shelter. The only thing to do is keep going, because in five minutes you’ll be hung out to dry.
Sometimes a sky will turn from fluffy white to brooding gray, the wind will pick up and whip every stray leaf into your face, and you’ll make a dash for the car or an awning only to have the sun come out four seconds later.
Smartest business model ever: showing up on the streets of New York with a bunch of umbrellas and ponchos for sale on a day when the skies suddenly open. Rain in New York usually means it.
Ponchos are surprisingly effective if you’re outdoors. Not so great for the whole getting in the car thing but if you’re walking around they do a pretty good job of keeping you dry. Better than an umbrella which has nothing to say about sideways rain.
Ralph and I bought a couple to walk with. They fold up into your pocket and come in handy during an unexpected squall. Especially if the squall decides to mean it.
We also have a super duper extra special umbrella that is designed to never turn inside out in a gust. We’ve had it for every bit of 20 years and it’s pretty effective.
It did, however, turn inside out once. It was in Brigantine. Chicago gets credit for being the windy city but clearly those people have never been to Brigantine. My umbrella survived Chicago but Brigantine whipped it inside out in no time flat.
Unless you’re planning an outdoor wedding or you’ve got a 500 mile trip planned and your windshield wipers are broken, rain is a wonderful thing.
The sound is soothing and the thunder and lightning that comes with it is delightful. The same people who complain about rain put on rain sounds to sleep or during meditations. I’d much rather listen to actual rain. It plays a different symphony when you’re in a car or in your bedroom or walking in it with a plastic poncho hood over your head.
Standing on the beach in the rain is particularly nice. It’s like a universe of water. A 3-D water experience. 360 degrees of wet.
Here’s when rain gets annoying: when it keeps going.
Day after day after day of rain is boring and depressing. But I feel that way about sunny days, too. Sometimes they get very boring. Sometimes I crave rain, or wind, or storms. Pretty much anything but more of the same.
And admittedly, I find drizzle annoying. Drizzle is just the air messing with you. It gets in your eyeballs and makes your clothes stick to you and is even worse for your perfectly coifed hair because it has no respect for umbrellas or ponchos whatsoever and just floats and flits and lands wherever it pleases.
But today’s rain was pleasant, even as I walked through it to the grocery store.
There was only one moldy spot in my day. This evening I got an email from the Farmers Market about tomorrow’s harvest, which they mailed out much earlier than usual, that opened with this sentence: “We can’t predict how many Strawberries we will have due to the rains yesterday and today.”
Strawberries need rain, and I need strawberries. So I’m hoping this wet weather will not rain on my berry parade.
Photo: a piece of the puddle at Harlinsdale farm. No dolphins were harmed in the taking of this picture.