In praise of rain

Saturday July 28, 2012


Last night I went to sleep to the sound of rain. Drops were gently plopping on the shrubs outside my window, scrubbing the leaves free of a month’s worth of dust. Both the plants and I were thankful for the blessing of a summer rain. Although we are not in the dire straits of drought befalling some of the western states, we still see signs of the lack of precipitation everywhere.

Lawns are browning, flowers are drooping, and crops are failing to flourish.

Water restrictions have been adopted in many towns, and my rain barrels are empty. Rivers that were full of deep, rushing water in the spring are now revealing their rock-strewn bottoms amid a mere trickle. Rain can change all that. Rain is such an amazing phenomenon that we should really stop to appreciate it once in a while.

Rain cleanses our air of dust and pollution. It feeds our gardens, lakes, and ponds while it quenches our thirst. It cools us and washes us clean. Anyone who has ever been caught outside in a downpour can testify to the refreshing feel of rain as it covers you from head to toe, pasting your clothes against your skin and adding a unique squishing sound to your walk.

Splashing in puddles should never be underrated either.

If you are ever near a body of water when it rains, watch how the surface comes alive with a thousand simultaneous concentric ripples as the individual drops meld with the water below. Or trace the lacy trails of raindrops on a window. I think rain is an overlooked and underappreciated art form. Rain was into the splatter technique long before Jackson Pollock made in artistically fashionable. There is a whole industry dependent on the rain. Foul weather gear keeps fishing folk able to withstand hours on deck in a nasty gale. Raincoats inhabit every closet; boots are indispensable; umbrellas are a timeless and necessary fashion accessory. And would you drive a car without a functioning pair of windshield wipers? I think not.

Water is majestic and dangerous. Take Niagara Falls for example. That breath-taking beauty has claimed many lives; but people still flock to its banks to look in awe at those stupendous falls of water and to hear its ceaseless roar. During hurricane season, surfers and others dare the crashing, pounding walls of sea water churned up along the coast. I witnessed one such event during the blizzard of ‘78. The waves were smashing down so loudly on Cape Cod’s Nauset barrier beach that standing inland near Route 6 in Eastham you could not hear the person next to you speak.

Tide pools are another source of wonder along the coast -- quiet, calm and full of marine treasures. Wiggle your toes in the spent waves of any sandy beach and feel serenity mixed with equal parts of joy. Water connects us with our primordial selves; it wakens within us some elemental bond, felt but not entirely understood.

Falling water, or rain, has an added dimension. It showers down upon us from above. Clouds collect and distribute precipitation, and meteorologists can describe for you all the various types of clouds; but they cannot describe the magic therein. Why does this cloud look like Jimmy Durante and that cloud like an alligator? Why does this line of thunderclouds swerve around Dalton and dump two inches of rain directly east of us?

Mysteries aside, I know why I love the rain. It saves me hours with the hose, trying to keep my tomatoes and cucumbers alive. It waters the whole yard simultaneously, effortlessly, and precisely. It never forgets the last hanging basket on the left like I did last week, until the drooping vegetation begged for help. Rain refills the barrels and refreshes the spirit of this person who loves to get her face wet with its healing drops.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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