"The rain is raining all around, it falls on field and tree, it rains on the umbrellas here and on the ships at sea." And it is raining. My front door was open, airing out the house that had been shut for a month, the big trees in the yard filling the screen with deep shades of rich green. Then I glanced up to see steady stripes of rain falling straight to the ground. As Thoreau wrote, "The scattered drops are falling fast and thin," so quietly I almost missed them. Now it's coming more heavily, accompanied by occasional thunder. It is the perfect summer downpour. Once it's finished the humidity will probably be even higher, but right now I don't care. I love rain.
I love a late summer shower, like the one that even now is silently polishing leaves and grass to a lighter green. Birds love them, too. They sing through the bits of thunder and momentary downpours. I expect they love the rain even more than I do. To them it means fresh water and worms crawling out of the soggy soil, offering themselves as a tasty banquet on the grass and driveway. Frogs love the rain. The fat one who lives under one side of my little garden pond croaks his appreciation of the fresh water flowing into his pool, the one he shares with some small lilies and a brass frog. The frog is a fancy of mine. It has a little valve in it's mouth that water is supposed to flow out of, and a slightly obscene one on the other end that the kids tease me about. I just nestle him into a flower and say no more. It's not his fault he was created that way. He's meant to spit water, of course, but I chose him for his size and shape. I don't know what my real frog considers him -- some kind of weirdo neighbor perhaps. The kind best ignored. I do know that they sit out during rain showers, apparently enjoying themselves. Rain is so wonderful, who doesn't love it?
I don't. I hate the rain, especially the long drawn out ones in October and November. They fall day after day, graying out the sun, making us drive with our wipers on perpetual swish-swish. They soak the ground, saturating it and clashing with the already high water table, a battle of two unalterable forces. Every day there is more. It makes permanent puddles on our lawns, rivers in our driveways, and turns the deep drainage gully by the street into a canal. The heavy clay that masquerades as soil in my yard becomes a slippery, sloppy goo that permanently stains my sneakers and socks. My porch fills up with pots of perennials, tiny trees desperate to get into ground and start growing, and my beloved shrubs. Digging and planting are impossible. Seeds will wash away, and the dirt can't be moved or even walked on, as that turns the clay into an adobe-like brick. So I watch the rain and complain. Every spring and every fall it torments us with it's capriciousness. I've never read a poem in which a gardener laments the rain, rails about the unfairness of its timing, curses the way it willfully keeps him from his planting and tending. No poet appears to have tackled the subject. Perhaps thats because gardeners are too busy to write poetry; they're all inside planning the minute details of next year's vegetable gardens or their new, expensive irrigation systems. As for poets, their gardens probably die in the first heatwave. Who can remember to tend the herbs when one is tending the muse instead?
Yes, I definitely hate the rain. Longfellow knows what I feel. "The day is cold, and dark, and dreary, it rains, and the wind is never weary... Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary." Farmers hate the rain, too, rather like gardeners. Most of the year they pray for it but when fall arrives, with the approaching harvests ripening, they swear at weather forecasters who even dare say 'precipitation'. Every tiny cloud is examined and discussed in minutest detail. The space shuttle could be cleared for take-off, but crops at harvest time are much more demanding. A bit of rain can spoil a year's hard work. Too many ruined crops and another family loses their land. Technological advances aside, farmers are still at the mercy of weather. But let's not forget about the biggest haters of rain -- children. One of the first chants they learn pleads "Rain, rain, go away." How they wish it would! Enough to spend an entire day by the window, imploring endlessly.
Then again, I do love the rain. "I thought I had forgotten, but it all came back again to-night with the first ... thunder in a rush of rain." (Spring Rain by Sara Teasdale.) I hope I'm never so far gone that I grouse about summertime rain. Here in the SE it can make a day livable. The low gray clouds stop the burning sun. Rain drives temperatures down. Even a few extra degrees of coolness are appreciated, especially at night, when I stand on my back deck watching the storm clouds forced in by northwest winds. The a/c won't have to be turned down quite so far tonight, and the house may be a little cooler in the morning when I get up. It's no secret that farmers love rain. It saves them from having to irrigate. It fills wells, replenishes aquifers and rinses the grit from their skin as they ride their tractors. Everyone knows children love the rain, too, don't they? They open their mouths to it, jump in its puddles, fling mud at each other, and become drenched to their bones. I like to do those things, too. Even rain gear is fun to wear, as A. A. Milne knows. "John had Great Big Waterproof Boots on; John had a Great Big Waterproof Hat." The name of the poem? Happiness. It's there right now -- outside my door waiting for me. A lovely August rain, and something even better -- happiness. Who knew?
Read Well, Friend
(Rain, by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Summer Rain by Thoreau; A Rainy Day by Longfellow.)