This morning, the view from the back porch looks like showers. It is late August and dark clouds are brooding on the horizon. Sending uneven breezes they carry the smell of rain while loosening the season’s first worn out leaves from their tethers. Drifting down, slipping side to side, that spent foliage describes the paths the coming avalanche of fall color will soon follow.
I think of that line from the Beatles’ song, “. . . when the rain comes, they run and hide their heads, they might as well be dead, when the rain comes . . .” It does seem that most folks find precipitation to be an inconvenience or worse. Having worked in the landscape contracting field for over forty years, I am very familiar with both the personal discomfort and scheduling problems that the elements can impose on those who earn a living in the out-of-doors. I recall one time we were required to meet the grand opening date of a public tennis court. Landscaping represents the icing on the cake in most construction situations and every prior contractor’s inevitable delay causes a domino effect of increasing anxiety for that final touch of planting and grassing. In that particular situation, it had rained for days before our arrival and we were forced to literally rake mud that was the consistency of stiff chocolate pudding before installing the sod. Needless to say, the experience and results were miserable. The grass ended up looking like choppy green waters on a storm battered lake.
Despite those occasional difficult times, I retain an affinity for ‘weather’. Just like eating vanilla ice cream for dessert at each meal, a weeks long period of continually sunny days is a bit boring to me. Similar to the gurus on the Weather Channel, I like it best when the fronts continue to roll through the hills here producing clouds, wind, and, hopefully, rain. Forecasters, like Mexican soccer announcers in a close contest, really come alive when storms are predicted. I dread the day that humans can actually control the weather. I predict that such a future will restrict precipitation to the early morning hours when opportunity for appreciation of rain will be at a minimum.
Speaking of appreciation for rain and how it is arrives, I miss an older neighbor who had many humorous observations on life. My favorite of his was, “If it weren’t for Alabama, we’d never have any weather!” His country wisdom was rooted in the very obvious fact that most of our climactic systems usually describe a path of west to east. I suppose South Carolina should be equally grateful to Georgia for whatever we send them.
And, I also should point out that my enjoyment of precipitation does not include tornadoes and hurricanes. Aside from their excesses in terms of winds and floods, those systems tend to be both destructive and unforgiving, much like the wrath of a hungry horde of mosquitoes that have been trapped for days in a mannequin factory. After taking my wife to work in Atlanta in 1976, I inadvertently crossed paths with a tornado as I traveled north on I-75. The impact was sudden and the windows in my car imploded, splattering shattered glass and fear all over me. Petrified, I remember wondering what might sail through those openings although the cyclonic winds raced on. By the time I could brake to a stop, it was all over. I helped a woman out of her vehicle in the southbound lane that had two pine trees on the roof. We gave each other anonymous hugs. With a white face and trembling hands, I drove in shock to my landscape job in Smyrna. Since that day, I always pay close attention to storm warnings but I have never lost my affection for gentle, soothing rain.
As I sit on the porch at our cabin in much calmer conditions, I recall a saying of my grandmother’s that is related to this season. “A summer’s morning thunderstorm is like an old woman’s dance.” In other words, an old woman’s jig is as brief as the typical duration of an early morning thundershower in this hot period. As with my old neighbor’s comment on where our weather originates, this insight is another example of a truism borne of times when people had only experience and their senses to predict the weather. For myself, I rely, breathlessly, on radar wherever a TV is available.
Aside from reminiscing about weather comments I have heard in the past, the point of all this is that I do love the rain. Even more than that, I love to be outside. Last night at sunset, darker clouds on the horizon grumbled thunder and presaged an approaching storm. As lightning clarified those warnings, I wanted to immerse myself into the sensory experience of the coming deluge. I decided to sleep on our covered porch which is perched three stories off the ground, embraced by branches and foliage, and feels like a tree-house. And, so last night while I drifted in and out of sleep, my rest was serenaded by thunderous reverberations accompanied by the melody of raindrops; raindrops that made pleasant sounds as they fell in intermittent stops among the leaves and limbs on their way to the expectant earth.
There is no doubt in my mind that God invented air conditioning and heated homes for good reasons. However, I believe that our human experience is being shortchanged as many of us continually transition from one hermetically sealed environment to another. Personally, I miss the vent windows that used to exist on cars allowing cool air to gush across your lap as you drove. I rue the fact that most modern buildings utilize windows that won’t open. I also believe that there would be a distinct drop in the dispensing of sleep aids and anxiety meds if the interiors of homes were exposed to the out-of-doors at least during the spring and fall months. (Note to reader: I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on TV.) Rain itself is an ancient, but relevant, signal from the heavens that we should take a break and enjoy the weather. And, of course, this appreciation is best gained from a cozy, safe spot while sitting wrapped in the comfort of a blanket on a broad porch.