Friday, October 19, 2012


For two seasons, I coached the Yahoos baseball team in the Volkswagen headquarters town of Wolfsburg, Germany. We started practicing each season in early Spring when the weather was often more wintery than otherwise. Baseball is a game designed for warmth and clear skies, but we didn't have that luxury in Wolfsburg, so I'd tell the guys, "There is rain, there is cold, and there is wind. We only cancel practice when all three conditions are in the forecast." If we had let just two of the conditions stop us, we'd have never had practice.

One of the reasons you don't play baseball in the rain is that the balls get extra heavy with water, ruining them, and greatly increasing the risk of arm injuries, especially to pitchers who try to throw them. Since I had a responsibility for the health and safety of our players, I would pitch batting practice on the particularly wet days. I still don't have full use of my right shoulder due to the thousands of water-logged balls I threw during those two years, but in the big picture it's really a small price to have paid for the experience. I sometimes dream of tossing balls off that muddy mound, water dripping off the bill of my cap, wind gusting from right to left making my curve balls work almost impossibly well. When they make the movie of my life, I definitely want that to be in it.

We considered ourselves hearty adult men, fully capable of taking on the challenges of whatever the weather tossed our way, but still we drew a line, one we don't draw at the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool in Seattle. We go outdoors no matter what, although this will be the first rainy season test for our 5's program, which is spending more than half its school days under the open sky.

Bizarrely, until this week we've seen virtually no rain since the end of July. If it hadn't been for one light night time drizzle near the end of September, we would have broken, by far, all kinds of records. It's been mild and sunny, it seems, forever. The rains, finally, have arrived over the course of the last week, however, with yesterday evening ushering in a good, hard one that lasted all night. As I put on my yellow rain gear to walk the dogs, it dawned on me that for the first time in a long time, I wasn't looking at it as a chore: getting out there in the rain was something to which I was really looking forward.

Most people know about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) a condition caused in some people by a lack of sunshine. Well, I recently read that for people who live in climates like the Pacific Northwest, SAD can be activated by too much sun as well. I'm not necessarily saying I've been suffering from that, but I sure feel like a kind of weight has been lifted. What a pleasure it was to walk casually in the downpour instead of rushing and ducking through it the way my fellow pedestrians were doing it, hunkering down against it on their way to catch their buses. It's been getting down into the 40's at night, but it was still warm enough that I eschewed my rain boots, instead opting for a pair of Crocs, choosing to let my feet enjoy the wet, steering toward the puddles instead of away from them.

The dry dusty world, now shiny, every surface twinkling, even the chestnut leaves that are still clinging to the trees, reflecting the headlights of the cars kicking up rooster tails along Westlake Avenue. We strolled all the way to Lake Union where we were virtually alone in the new park there, cutting across the slippery grass, stopping on the bridge to watch the rain fall on the lake's surface.

Rain gear, of course, makes this possible, an essential part of living here, especially if you're going to have dogs. I have a couple inexpensive Dutch Harbor brand rain coats with matching pants that keep most of the rain out. The only time they failed me, slightly, was when my daughter and I drove over to West Seattle during a big storm (with rain, cold, and wind) and stood on a point where waves broke ferociously against the bulwark, crashing over us again and again and again. The truly great part of this experience is that we weren't the only ones there as dozens of other Seattlites had come to this place with the same idea. It was worth a little leakage.

At our parent meetings this month, I reminded everyone that we've been living on borrowed time as far the weather goes. I tried to emphasize to the families, some of whom are new to the area, that young children do not automatically know that weather is "bad," or "nasty," or "ugly." It's just different and it makes everything different, even mundane things like painting on easels, running, or handling drumsticks. It makes things look different, feel different, smell different, and sound different. Not bad -- different, and from those differences we learn more about our world and about ourselves.

As the Norwegian saying goes, "There's no bad weather, just bad clothing." There is only weather, not good weather or bad. There's not even bad weather for baseball.

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Gina said...

Weather is often a starting point for small talk conversation with strangers ("sure windy today, isn't it?"), and simultaneously, a story-telling catalyst among old friends ("remember that snow-storm of '86?"). I think it functions at both ends of the relationship continuum because across most of North America, weather is so variable. Hot/cold, wet/dry, sunny/cloudy--all sorts of opposites occurring in different states, cities, or times of day!

I find it so interesting to read your comment that it was a relief--a weight was lifted--to get out into the rain after so much sun. I am from a prairie province in Canada, and while I've always lived in its urban areas, I am definitely a prairie girl in that I love my wide, open, sunny skies. My province averages 300+ sunny days a year--akin to New Mexico, only snowier in the winter.

I have been to Seattle a few times. I absolutely love your city. Such creativity behind its design, such friendliness in its people, and such greenery in its landscape. That being said, I could never live there. Seattle averages over 300 *rainy* days, and I think it would kill me. My weight is lifted the other way. After 3-4 days of wet, I start craving sunshine. I guess it all depends on what you're used to.

Still, in all of it--changing weather, unusual weather, --there is conversation. And especially with children, weather opens up the conversation into wondrous places and possibilities. Such a natural occurrence in the world on which to learn all sorts of new things.

Enjoy your rain out there. Hope your kids are finding relief in it, too.

Laura said...

I think I was getting reverse SAD as well. The last week and a half before it rained I was incredibly tired, no matter how much sleep I got. The day the sun went away I felt fine and have since. :P