© Sue Watts, August 1, 2022
It was the Fourth of July and we were celebrating the day with our community in Alabama. A summer storm unleashed a torrent of rain, and we began to slosh our way to the car. We were drenched within several minutes, but I realized I was having fun. Gone was a childhood fear of getting wet and being encased in boots and raincoat as I sought to keep dry and to avoid “catching my death of a cold”. Here I was…laughing with the kids as we waded through ankle high gutters of rushing warm water and jumped in the puddles on purpose. We watched leaf boats floating on the surface. We tried to catch raindrops in our mouths to see if they had a taste. It was pure joy…and it was catching.
Since then, I have often danced in the rain. I’ve danced with other folk from the West in a spontaneous celebration of rain at a national conference center for Girl Scouts. I’ve clung to the trunk of a natural spruce umbrella in colder rains near Lac La Biche in northern Alberta, and paddled my way across a rainy lake in the Boundary Waters, knowing that my sleeping bag was in a dry place. I’ve watched a wave of yard -high chocolate water fill up a desert arroyo within a minute and counted eagles from a misty boat on the Colorado River while the Mojave Desert sprang into bloom on shore. I learned how to stay comfortable in the rain.
I’m still experiencing rain with glee, as long as it isn’t thundering (Suzy Safety Says!). What a sensory treat it is! The smells of green plants, wet wood, wet pines, even wet pavement are the first things I notice. Smells travel more readily in moist air. There’s a symphony of sounds as a shower approaches or moves on. The heavy vertical rain just shy of hailing that batters the ground, and the sigh of the earth as a heavy storm moves on leaving the world dripping and relaxed create a virtual symphony. My neighbors must wonder what I am doing when I pretend to direct the orchestra! Gentle misty raindrops moisten the skin while more purposeful ones prick the skin. The fact that the whole world around looks different is a wonder in itself: pine needles seem to swell, water-drops magnify the veins of leaves, mists drift across mountains, rocks reveal colors hidden by the dryness, drainage channels form.
The meadow I’m trying to create in the front yard has more than met my expectations since it started raining and the drought-stricken deer quit munching everything. We all know the importance, the necessity, of having the right amount of rain, particularly for plants. Too little and most plants will languish, despite the efforts of humans to use our diminishing supply of water. It takes whatever magic is in a raindrop to nourish the plants back to health. Too much, and we lose soil to erosion, and, sometimes, our homes to floods.
In an intriguing article, I learned that wildlife biologists have not studied the effect of rain on most wildlife species. A team from the agricultural colleges of Illinois and Kansas has begun looking at the effects of rain on animals in the Amazon rainforest. They are urging other biologists to use their protocols to begin factoring in the timing and amount of rain on the species they are studying. Calling it the hygris niche, it is designed to study the effects of the greater amounts of moisture in our atmosphere and the change in storm cycles that seem to be occurring as a result of climate change.
So what about journaling in the rain?
- If you’re not comfortable with raindrops falling on your head, find a porch (not while it’s thundering) or take an umbrella. Rain jackets can help.
- Don’t go out within 30 minutes of hearing thunder.
- You can use waterproof notepads if you’re really out in the rain. Apparently, regular graphite pencils seem to work better than the waterproof pens.
- Draw sound maps. Is the thunder cracking or rolling? Capture smells (no need to get it down…just bask in the experience)!
Want to see how two prominent journalists draw weather? Here are two websites that address journaling in the rain:
- John Muir Laws has a 1.25 hour video workshop on drawing weather.
- Marley Peifer has a 20 minute demo about journaling in the rain (but don’t go sticking your hands down a gopher hole…un-uh…no)
When you dry off, it might be a good time for a cup of hot cocoa, and, if it’s still raining, a nap might be just the thing. Apparently, people are sleepier in rainy weather.
Rain…it’s a rare treasure for us up here. It needs to be celebrated with joy, with attention, with reverence.