Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let It Come Down

There is more wet weather on this coast than I ever knew in any other place; during a month we have had three fair days; and there is no prospect of a change.  ~From the journals of Lewis and Clark

The subject of people and things for which I am thankful is a matter too broad and deep for a blog post, especially one I'm writing here on the verge of twenty some odd people (all of whom are included in that gratitude) descending upon my home for Thanksgiving.

Painting with liquid watercolors in the rain is a joy.

I thought instead, I'd show some love for the rain, which has been pretty much continuous this week. There have been some torrential moments, but it's mostly been our patented drizzle. The forecast shows it letting up a bit on Monday.

The rain is our painting partner, creating washes and rainbow rivers on
our canvases.

Seattle's rain is legendary as is our mold, mildew and mud puddles. Most of the women and children I know wear rubber rain boots for a good nine months of the year. I'm perplexed as to why men aren't on this trend, but perhaps they're waiting for me to start it. If you wait indoors for it to stop, you may never get outside. When I worked for the chamber of commerce, our research department was fond of touting the fact that we buy more sunglasses than any other major city in the US -- probably because it's hard to keep track of them during the months between sun breaks. Many cities get more rain, if measured in inches, including New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Jacksonville, but few top our 240 overcast days per year. If you include an additional 62 days of partial overcast, that leaves us with a meager two months of full-on sunshine annually.

The raindrops were so big and heavy yesterday, that it caused paint to literally
leap from the cups and onto our paper.

Damp is a way of life. It makes us both hearty and introspective. It forces a casual egalitarianism upon us, in which it's impossible to know under all those layers of rain gear, whether your dealing with a prince or a pauper. Cities in the Pacific Northwest, despite the rain, have the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the US. The rain washes our air clean and makes our forests lush, keeping us physically and spiritually healthy.

Rain makes us who we are. And because we're raising our children here, it shapes them almost as much as any parent. Even when it's pouring like it was this week, the kids are disappointed when our water pump is dry (our landlord had wisely shut off the outdoor water for the winter). It's more common for kids to object to playing outdoors on sunny days ("It's too bright," "It's too hot.") than rainy. Some kids never want to wear their coats at all, no matter how wet. Others just keep theirs on all day, including a hood, even while indoors, I guess because the whole taking it off and on thing is just too much of a hassle.

And, of course, if we leave our paintings to the rain's own devices, it
washes them clean in the matter of minutes, leaving a blank slate for
 the next human painter.

Rain makes us a people who go ahead with our lives in the face of inclemency. We ignore the Grateful Dead's advice to "Come in when it's raining/Go back out when it's gone." We appreciate the stoic defiance of Shakespeare's line from Macbeth: "Let it come down." Our rain is a daily reminder to stay focused on our life of doing, to treat obstacles as opportunities, to let troubles roll off our backs, and to take moments, not to smell the roses, but to splash in the puddles. 

Of course we like to grumble amongst ourselves about the rain. It's a popular sport. And we all hope to make a break for the sun sometime between December and March. When we do get a miracle sunny day during the winter, spring, or fall, business grinds to a halt as office workers schedule lunch meetings "outside the office," and, "don't expect me back." Every public space becomes jammed with people on those days, from plazas and courtyards to playgrounds and beaches, all of us there to stand together in the sun.

No one love the sun more than us, no one, and for that I thank the rain.

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Barbara Zaborowski said...

That's how I feel about our incessant sunshine. We lived here for three or four months before we heard a noise outside and went onto our apartment's balcony to check. It was raining. And all around our courtyard people had come out on their balconies to watch the rain.

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

This is a nice celebration of rain, Tom. Looking at the pictures I can almost smell the fresh, rainy, evergreen smells.
I lived in Vacouver, B.C. for 4 years, many years ago, while attending university, and I loved the rain, and the smells of rain. Somehow everything felt very alive to me. I grew up, and now live in Saskatchewan, Canada, where we have extremely cold winters in the minus 30 to 40's, and nothing is alive outdoors.
I think you and your children are lucky to live and play in this wonderful environment.