This week—the sixth week after the vernal equinox—we hiked a very spring-like hike. Meaning, we hiked through a 40°F rain.
It was just raining lightly and intermittently when we left the house, enough that my daughter argued for just wearing her rain jacket and leaving her rain pants at home. She finally acceded to my strong and very reasonable suggestion to wear her rain pants “just in case,” and about fifty yards into the hike when the rain started really coming down, she agreed that it had been the right choice.
With cold hands and a wet camera, I didn’t take many photos of this hike, so it seems like this week might be a good time to reflect on my evolving relationship with rain.
When I was twenty, I worked one autumn at a resort near Lake Tahoe. One morning, we woke up and it was raining. As I trudged miserably to the main lodge to serve breakfast, one of my fellow resort staff members came dancing up beside me.
“I love the rain!” she proclaimed, twirling a pirouette in a puddle. “Don’t you?”
“No,” I said, head down against the raindrops. She stopped in front of me, and I looked up at her incredulous face.
“How could you not love the rain?” she asked. “It’s so beautiful and fresh and it washes everything clean!” She twirled again, hands outstretched to the heavens.
This woman was just a year younger than I was, and she was from southern California. I had spent my first ten years in California, but the second ten were spent in the eastern half of the United States, most recently at my mom’s house in northeast Ohio. Northeast Ohio isn’t a place that promotes optimism in the best of times—shortly after I moved into my mom’s house, the local meteorologist reported that Cleveland averages only 65 days of sun a year—but I was recently graduated from college, jobless and deeply in debt, in a Rust Belt city that the economic upturn of the late 90’s seemed to have largely missed. I took the crappy weather personally.
A few months of this drove me to a minimum-wage job more than 2,300 miles away, where I projected my irritation with precipitation onto a spritely Californian.
That turned out to the be nadir of my relationship with rain. A couple of months later, I’d moved from Ohio to North Carolina, where each rain revealed an extravagant green that seemed filled with hope and new life so different from the gray Ohio weather. I watched through the raindrops in wonder at the brilliance of the colors they set loose.
Another eight years in the desert, first in California and then in Utah, taught me to greet the rain with gratitude as it filled long-empty riverbeds and seasonal lakes and turned the golden hills green and covered them with wildflowers.
Now in Massachusetts, I get nervous when the river is low and I feel relief when the rain comes. I enjoy being out in the smell and sound of it, watching the puddles fill and hearing birds twittering their glee from the shelter of the trees and bushes.
My desert-born children seem to have an innate and unbridled joy for the rain. If I start to fall back into my weather-related blahs, their enthusiasm pulls me out of it.
It’s hard to stay sour while jumping in puddles.