Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the rhythm of the falling rain

It has been a dry summer. The grass is crisp and brown. The only green in the lawn comes from the indestructible clover, with only its small, untidy heads standing tall enough to need mowed. The few times it has rained, I have been at work. Since I work in a cubicle, sometimes I don't even know that it is raining. I hate that. I hate it because I love to watch and smell and listen to the summer rain.

When I was a child, in those pre-air conditioned days, a drenching, cooling, summer rain was an event we all looked forward to. As the wind began to blow, my family gathered on the front porch, the lucky ones snagging seats on the porch swing. We loved it when the wind blew hard enough to rattle and toss the leaves on the maple trees, showing us their pale undersides. Not too hard, though, or we would be driven indoors when the rain finally began to fall. The first few drops hit the broad sandstone sidewalks with loud, fat splats. Then faster and faster and harder and harder the rain came, as we watched and listened. The air smells a certain way during the first moments of a summer rain. I think it is the smell of water soaking into sun-warmed dirt that has been dry for a long time. That smell doesn't linger long as it is replaced by the fresh, green smell of wet leaves and bark. The smell of rain, I guess I would call it.

We never knew the crescendo had been reached until the rain started, imperceptibly at first, to lessen. Too soon, I always thought, maybe it will rain harder again. And sometimes it did. But gradually, gradually, the rain grew slower and quieter as the storm moved on. The only sound we heard then was water dripping from every branch and leaf, every eave and overhang, up and down our street. The spell was broken and we all went back inside to tasks that had been laid aside at the promise of rain.

When we moved into this house seven years ago, the skies threatened rain all day long. I think a few lazy drops fell as the movers loaded everything we owned onto the van. But it didn't rain all that long, long day. Every box, every piece of furniture, made it safely inside our new home. And that night, as we lay in our familiar beds in unfamiliar rooms, the rain began to fall. We heard it on the awnings outside our bedroom windows, tentative, soft, at first, then faster and louder. The sound filled me with joy. It felt like a blessing.


Kristy said...

Now I've got that song stuck in my head... "pitter patter, pitter patter, Ohhhh"

The rain smell of which you speak actually has a name (as I learned from Bryan, a grand master of Wiki-fu). It's called petrichor and is one of my favorite smells too. Your lament of a windowless cube and account of a childhood memory brings up such vivid imagery that many of us have no doubt experienced but couldn't put to words nearly as well. You've got me hoping for a rainstorm :)

anne mancine said...

Kristy - thank you! I showed this post to Jules last night while I was working on it, and she said, "you know, Bryan knows a word for that. He posted about it one time." So thanks for passing that on to me.

We actually had a good, soaking rain last night, and that prompted me to sit down and write this. You might be amused to know that once it started to rain really hard, I just had to be out in it, so I picked up Rufus and took an umbrella out the back door to walk to the covered patio, where I could just sit and enjoy the experience.

Bryan said...

LOL. And to think I clicked here to provide the Wikipedia link to petrichor. :)

Yeah, I love sitting out on the front porch during a rainstorm. Something about it is just so pleasant and refreshing, no matter how much thunder or lightning there is. Now, high winds are another story.