It’s been raining for a few days now; almost four inches last night alone. Roads throughout the area are flooded and creeks and rivers have swelled well beyond their banks. Today schools throughout the area are closed because of impassable roads, and classes at the college are only half-filled.
I went to the oceanfront and walked as usual, though no one else was around. The waves were choppy but the tide wasn’t that high, and the wind was strong, though not as fierce as I’ve found before.
There is something so cleansing about walking in the rain. It keeps my mind almost entirely in the moment, and though by the end of a half dozen miles I’m soaked as if I dove in the Atlantic, it doesn’t bother me so much since I know I can change my clothes, or at the very least find a place to dry off.
Still, I prefer the sun and warmth, but I don’t mind the rain. There’s something about wet weather which makes me feel alive. It is the visceral, it is the texture of life we normally don’t brush against. Usually weather is something “above us” or “out there” or even if we are out on a fine autumn day, it is something somehow balanced so that we barely notice. Rain, though, a heavy rain with a slight tropical wind swirling back down from the northeast, makes its presence known. I love it.
When I was very young we lived in a house with a side patio surrounded by hedges and covered by a green canvas awning. I loved sitting at the picnic table on the patio when it rained and listening to the sounds. It is the same camping. After high school my friend Mike and I went camping in the mountains of Virginia and one day the rain was torrential. I’ll never forget it. We found things to do like visit the most obscure caverns in the east, but mostly we sat inside the canvas tent, listening to the rain and writing a letter to Jimmy Carter. It passed the time.
I am sure my most memorable rainy day was one spent with my son in Spain. We walked east on our way back to Santiago from Fisterra on the Atlantic, and there was a long, steady, heavy rain the entire hike. The mist was heavy and while there were supposed to be scenic cliffs and vistas to our right as we walked, we couldn’t see past the trees. At one muddy incline we followed a path to the left which led to an old chapel and stood in a bandstand-type structure in the back. It was the most beautiful sight, looking out at the chapel in the mist as if it was a thousand years ago or a thousand from now. We were soaked to the skin, but it felt fine; we didn’t mind. We were there, understanding the absolute sense of “now.” Rain can do that.
In 1983 I was in Tucson for the floods. Renee and I and Tom and a few others headed to the San Rillito River which had been used for kids baseball games just a few days earlier and watched an A-frame house drop off the cliff as the mud was torn away from raging waters. The house flipped and floated downstream toward Mexico. Even Route 19 South to Nogales was wiped out in one direction from the floods, which came from the heavy rains. It never ceases to amaze me how individual droplets of rain are harmless, but gathered together they are the number one cause of weather-related deaths. It is amazing and terrifying what the singular can do when bonded to others with a common goal—in this case just, you know, falling and saturating the ground.
The least rainy place on earth is Antarctica. Lloro, Colorado is the rainiest with 534 inches a year. Raindrops look more like chocolate chips than teardrops. Rain falls at about 18 to 22 miles per hour, no matter how “torrential” you think it is—it isn’t falling faster or harder, just denser. (See, sometimes you learn something from a blog)
In college I once borrowed a Franciscan friar’s robe for a Halloween party and went as a priest. With the hood up on the rainy walk home to my off-campus apartment about a mile away, no less than a dozen cars stopped to offer me a ride. I simply blessed them and kept walking.
It doesn’t seem to rain as much as it used to growing up. I used to love rainy Saturday afternoons when I was young, and we’d hang out in the den and watch old westerns or old movies. I thought those days would never end. Like that rain, the rain today reminds me that it had been sunny and isn’t now. It is a slight push toward melancholy, it hints at appreciation of things past. I welcome the rain so that I will not take for granted the sun. It is like fasting, a rainy day. It forces me to spend an entire day not in the sun, somehow allowing my senses to breathe.
“Some people walk in the rain. Others just get wet.” –Roger Miller