April 12, 2012 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Rain reliably gives beauty, memories

By The Spokesman-Review
 

As I look out the window on a rainy day late in March, I spy a man building an ark on my front lawn.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating about the boat-building thing, but the sky is truly heavy with clouds. It’s kind of foggy, and it’s certainly raining a lot (in volume and intensity) – with a few breaks from time to time to allow for a little snowfall. Welcome to spring in the Inland Northwest.

Everywhere I’ve gone today (which will turn out to be a record-setting precipitation day), I’ve heard grumbling about the rain and the dark skies. Sure, it’s a sacred American pastime, complaining about the weather – it’s too hot, too cold, too windy, too icy, too whatever. But we all really seem to have a collective seasonal affective disorder reaction to these exceedingly wet and gray days. Maybe it’s because they come at the end of winter, and we’d really like to get on with the tulips and tilling. But no, I just think we don’t like the inconvenience of getting wet and are not able to have fun without the sun.

And so, I would like to pause for a moment and speak in praise of gloomy skies and rain.

I will concede that we are probably light-seekers by nature – the brighter it is outside, the better our collective mood. I’m sure the behavioral science folks have lots of evidence and research to back that up. But I kind of like gray days. If you’re inside an office working, what difference does it make? If you’re working outside, you don’t have to worry about sunburn. And how do you appreciate blue skies when you have nothing to contrast them with? There’s something about overcast days that make me want to clean out closets, reorganize file drawers, take out the cookbooks and try a new recipe.

My new working theory is that gray skies lead to personal productivity.

Now as for rain, I think some of my happiest memories have rain running through them. As a girl I gleefully rode my bike through rain puddles on sweltery summer afternoons, creating as big a wake as I could. When I was in high school and teaching swimming at summer camp, I would swim to the bottom of the pool and look upward to see the raindrops from down below as they danced on the surface. It was a great perspective.

One of my most memorable adventures was rain-created. Driving back to Spokane from Miami the summer my father died, the tail end of a hurricane caught us outside Montgomery, Ala., one night, and we really couldn’t see. No windshield wipers on the planet could give clear vision through the deluge. It was dangerous to continue and just as dangerous to stop on the roadway, even if we could figure out where the shoulder was.

I thought I spotted a flash of a neon sign off to the right, which we hoped was a motel. Not having a clue where an exit or side road was, my husband just randomly picked a spot and turned right. Down we went over an embankment, through rough patches of I-never-knew-what, through some bushes, over a curb and – glory be! – into the parking lot of a motel. After wringing ourselves out and as we were having soup in the next-door diner, a heavy-set man sauntered over to us. I swear, he looked like every Southern sheriff you’ve ever seen in every movie with a Southern sheriff in it.

Sternly and with an air of authority, he asked my husband: “Are you the man who just drove through the hedges?”

Not knowing whether he was about to have a fight on his hands, Bruce tightened up, pushed his chair back a little and said that yes, he was. The man broke out into a big smile and clapped Bruce on the back.

“I want to thank you, son. We were following you down the highway, and wherever your taillights went, we were going, too. We’re glad to be in safe for the night.”

The most beautiful rainstorm I experienced was last summer right here in Spokane as we drove in from Coeur d’Alene, watching the storm clouds gather over the Spokane Valley, admiring them change color and shape and roll out like a ribbon – and finally nourishing the dry ground with a welcome soak.

I have marveled at so many rainbows through the years that I can’t count them all. OK, I don’t want to get carried away here (too late, you say?), but rain is really beautiful.

Of course it can cause destruction, as can just about anything coming with too much abundance in nature. I like the cleansing that rain provides. What’s as refreshing as a good rainfall? Smell the air afterward. There’s nothing sweeter.

And besides, what can be better on a rainy afternoon than finding your most comfy chair, tucking your feet underneath you, pulling up a blanket and opening a favorite book? Or maybe drifting off for a little nap as you listen to the rain on the roof? Heaven.

Voices correspondent  Stefanie Pettit can be reached at upwindsailor@comcast.net. Find previous columns at spokesman.com/columnists/.


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