Friday, July 26, 2013

That which calms me

I woke up around 5 this morning. Not on purpose or thanks to an alarm, just one of those many occasions where I wake up earlier than I want to.

I won’t get into it right now, but I will say that being alone in the middle of the night is one of my least favorite things.

As I was lying in bed, waiting for sleep to return and wondering if it actually might, I heard a sound on the roof and outside. I thought maybe the wind had picked up, and I pictured dried leaves and such being carried across the pavement. I thought maybe there was an animal – or more than one? – outside.

I went to look outside, and may have realized before I actually reached the window panes that it was raining!

I quickly opened a window to bring the sound of pattering drops inside. I wasn’t awake much longer.

It doesn’t rain very often in Southern California, and when it does it’s more likely to rain in certain sections of the region and usually during the winter. I live in “The Valley,” where it seems to rain more than in other sections of LA, and I love this. A brief July water shower was oh so welcome today.

I moved to LA – get ready, here comes some information you’ve already heard before – in large part for its daily dose of sunshine. Sunshine keeps my spirits up. I love that there are so many days of sunshine here. Even when I take them for granted, I am still aware that the continuous presence of brightness each day is helping me out. The way a multivitamin or daily glasses of water help us out. It’s not obvious in a highly theatrical, emotional way that they’re helping, but cut out the vitamin or the water and we’ll notice the difference eventually.

I do not miss the snow of the region where I grew up. Maybe in 10 years I’ll be able to appreciate it again, in the way that I think a solid 5+ year break from listening to Ace of Base tunes will help me get back to a place of appreciation for the band. But right now, I don’t want to hear about snow, see it, feel it, think about it.

This past winter my hometown and several areas around it got pummeled with snow. Each week they got a new dumping. And this news was all over Facebook. I legitimately got annoyed and probably angry in response to this. I thought, “I left that area for a reason, I really don’t want to hear about this on Facebook.”

I’m not kidding. I’m a total grump sometimes, if you haven’t noticed.

So I don’t miss snow. It makes me cold, the grey clouds make me depressed. Let’s not talk about it anymore.

But I do miss the rain. I have loved rain and rainy days for always. It’s soothing. It’s cool: (non-frozen) water falling from the sky! It makes us (or me, at least) sleepy and friendly, kind of like Snow White’s seven dwarfs, or Muppets.

I don’t know where that analogy just came from, but I’m going with it.

Rain, even though it’s associated in all the great weather metaphors with depression and, sometimes, danger, for me it has the opposite effect. It makes me happy. It makes me calm.

One thing I have loved about rain for a long time is that it slows us down and brings us together. When it rains, all plans to go to the beach or the amusement park are called off. Not that I don’t love the beach or roller coasters, but they will be there when the rain lifts.

Yes, snow brings us together inside, too, and calls off our plans when it traps our cars in its frozen, gross grip…grrrrrrr. But there is a difference between snow days and rain days, so to speak. Snow, to me, feels like a trap. Rain is usually not something that comes and stays for days and months. The ground drinks it up, our cars get a fresh glisten on them thanks to the free bath, and we head back out to our lives, with a fresh whiff of delicious post-rainness to accompany us.

I might seem like someone who is hard to pin down. I talk a lot, I talk fast, I have a lot of ideas that churn around and spew out of me. I know a lot of people and like to keep in touch with many of them at once. But I love quality time with people – particularly with one person at a time – and it is very hard for me to tell people directly that I need some attention.

When it rains, quality time can’t help but show up. Think about what you do when it rains. If you’re at home, you grab your roommate, make popcorn and pop in a movie, right? If you’re babysitting, you whip out a board game or build a fort or go sit by the window and just look out and listen. You find your cat for a fresh round of cuddling. Even at the office, it seems to me that an extra pot of coffee gets thrown on the burner when it starts to rain. People take a break from their bill processing, their phone calls, and meet in the foyer or the break room to look outside and talk.

Rain brings us inside, together, and calms us down.

I love the sunshine now, but I didn’t always love soaring temps or appreciate the simple necessity of sunlight. The turning point came around the time I studied abroad in Africa, before which I told myself I better get used to sun and heat. Today I love lying on the beach or by the pool, working on my “tan,” people watching, talking, listening to the waves. The way hair warmed in the sun feels on the palm of my hand. Making senseless patterns in the sand with my fingers, barely realizing my habitual motion as I talk on the phone to Mom and Dad 1,500 miles away.

But when I was younger and still today, I thought and think that summer is kind of a season of feeling left out.

Wow, I really am a Debbie Downer, aren’t I?

In the summer people are running around. Beach, amusement parks, picnics, BBQs. This is all great, but if you don’t have a specific group that you’re a part of, you only land in these activities here and there. And the moments of waiting for these events can be pretty lonely. Or pretty damn lonely, depending.

When it rains, everyone has to come inside. Sometimes people complain. And with those people, especially out here where rain is such a rarity and, in my mind, a hugely precious gift, I have to say I kind of want to ask them what is wrong with them. We get something like 350 days of sun a year out here, and these people can’t keep it together for an occasional sweep of rain or cloudy day? But generally, when I get past the want-to-shake-them stage, I don’t actually mind the complaining. I just ignore it, and enjoy a hot beverage and the sound of the drops, and the fact that we’re all together.

Probably on some deep, unseen level, it makes me feel like I am back in my childhood home, with all of my siblings and parents in one home, before we were even old enough to think about leaving home for college and spouses and grand adventures to California. I’m visiting my parents in two weeks, and in their house with coffee and wine and three cats and themselves, I so hope it rains while I am there.

When it rains, for a moment – for 20 minutes or a day or a week – I don’t have to pin anyone down and beg for their attention. And if anyone else needs some attention, I am there to share a hot beverage with them and offer them some attention.

I’m getting blissful just thinking about it. 


  1. We had an awesome downpour today, and it smelled delicious!

  2. I've come to appreciate the rain more as I get older. Having to slow down and relate to people requires a certain maturity, I think.