Happiness Moments: Storms and Rain
So a little writing experiment for the blog. I’ve been wanting to find a way to do some free writing as practice. And I’ve been wanting to capture the moments in my life that have brought me true happiness. I need that little pick me up right now with everything going on in the world and no real chance to travel. So, some writing about happy moments in my life, hope they bring you a little happiness too.
I love the rain, there is nothing more calming and relaxing to me then to lay in bed and listen to the rain hitting the roof. When I was a child we had a large picture window in our living room. It had a shelf in front of it and when I was a small child and there were thunderstorms, which in the Northeast we had plenty of, I would sit in the window inside the curtains and watch the storms. I especially loved watching lightning at night, as the bolts would crack across the sky over the mountains it always looked to me like our very universe was cracking open and showing us the tiniest glimpses of alternate dimensions. I read a lot of science fiction as a kid.
But it wasn’t just the lightning, the thunder was amazing. Literally feeling the air rumbling with sound to the point you could feel it vibrate through your body was always amazing. I grew up in Washington Irving country, the nearest bridge to my childhood home was the Rip Van Winkle. So early on I was told the story that thunder was just the sound of dwarves bowling in the mountains, I always loved that explanation, it brought an almost cartoon wonder to nature.
In the summer as a kid, you could feel a storm coming. First the day would be incredible warm and close, then you’d start to smell the rain on the air. The smell is a combination of ozone, rich soil and is utterly distinctive. That would put you on edge and as soon as you felt that first hard blast of cold air come down you would head for home, a covered porch, a doorway and the rain would explode into a downpour. Then you’d wait for the really important part, the pause, storms would ebb and flow and after the initial raging downpour it would slow to a light drizzle and we would all head back into the street. We always had Popsicle sticks in the summer and you would race to the gutters. I lived on a street that ran downhill towards the river for several blocks and the water would come flying down the gutters, especially if a sewer got blocked and we would drop our Popsicle sticks into the raging gutter rivers and race down the street with them, slipping down and plucking them out right before they’d get sucked into the next sewer grate. It was the most ridiculous bit of fun as a child.
Later in life I would be reminded of those days while teaching Ecology courses. When we covered water quality assessment we would do a lab on how we evaluate streams and rivers. A component of those assessments would be determining the flow rates of those systems. Now there is lots of fancy equipment that exists to measure flow rate in a stream or river, but these were entry level courses and we didn’t have huge budgets. So we did a lot of really simple methods. To measure flow rate we would split the students into groups of two. We would measure the distance between the students and then to get the rate, it’s a simple matter of calculating how quickly the water flows that distance. We’d do that by by tossing an Orange in and timing how long it took to cover the distance. It was no Popsicle stick but it did the trick.
Rain, like everything has its positives and negatives. The one time I didn’t like rain was on the Appalachian Trail when it would rain so often, over so many days that you would spend a week or more completely wet. Even a day in town wasn’t enough to dry out all of your gear. At one point, being wet and cold for twelve days I almost quit the trail. Happily I didn’t, but three months later in a massive storm I would destroy my left knee and have to quit. It seemed like rain was always part of the trail experience.
But that negative is balanced out by the sweet memory of a date in Knoxville, Tennessee. We had decided to go to a sushi place and were far too focused on each other to pay any attention to a weather forecast. We found a parking spot a couple of blocks from the restaurant and just as we were about to get out of the car, the sky opened up in a complete downpour. Of course, we had no umbrella and the only cover available was the dog towel in the backseat. You know you’re smitten when you’re willing to run down the street in the pouring rain under a stinky dog towel just spend time with someone. It was ridiculous, we were soaked, we had an amazing dinner, the kind of night where the waitress feels the energy and plays along with you, then understanding the situation and leaves you alone until it’s time to go home. We walked slowly, happily back to the car in the rain that night, I really like the rain.