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Creek Running North

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January 01, 2006


Where I grew up breathing the air in summer is very much like swimming. The ocean is far away and the landscape moist. What breezes come of the warm lake are moist. The cool of night is moist and condenses out on the grass, there to linger until the humid sun lifts it into the air to hang.

After a string of sweltering days the air will break, form black clouds. They pile up on the western horizon, sweep up to the shore hurling bolts at buildings. People fret, squint at the sky, dash for awnings and open shops. The storm hits, and litter swirls at curbside in sudden floods. Oily sheens form on the parking lots, and the air is cooler for a time, until the clouds part and the water rises from the ground again to run down the back of your neck as sweat.

I much prefer the rains of the west, where the humidity comes in winter and turns to snow above five thousand feet. Sometimes, as in the last week, too much of it comes at once and we die a handful at a time in flood or slide. But that is seldom. People here still scurry for the doorways when the rain starts, or carry umbrellas that could shelter a horse. I wear a hat, and sometimes, if the rain is heavy, a coat. I try to remember to turn my face skyward from time to time.

Thirty years ago I raced home before the summer clouds broke open. I suddenly thought to ask why I hurried, and found I had no answer I could respect.

I sat on a curb and watched the clouds approach. A line of rain appeared three blocks away and moving. Wind came off the front. A few drops hit me, and then a few more, and I was engulfed. I could barely see across the street. Then came the lightning. I felt cold rain running down my chest. I was surrounded by flashes, brilliant deadly bolts whose thunderclaps barely drowned out my joyful screaming. In a few more minutes, with a gust, the storm traveled on toward Lockport and I stood sodden in the street.

Posted by Chris Clarke at January 1, 2006 10:04 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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This inspires me to write something myself about those sudden, eastern, landlocked rains that punctuate and define our summers. Thanks for this, Chris, you got it exactly.

Posted by: beth at January 2, 2006 07:40 AM
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i lived ten years in humboldt county, where breathing the air in winter is very much like swimming. in cold water.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at January 2, 2006 08:15 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

"I wear a hat, and sometimes, if the rain is heavy, a coat. I try to remember to turn my face skyward from time to time."

Ah Chris, you will be quickly assimilated as a local up here in the Northwest. One of the standards by which locals are identified in Seattle is the total disdain for umbrellas.

I myself prefer snow, as it is functionally drier to wander about in, but rain is so vital to our survival. It appears that the good folks of the Southern Great Plains are discovering how much they should appreciate the winter rains. What was that stat i read the other day? Something about how much more of the surface of the planet that is experiencing drought; it was a critical percentage increase.

Posted by: spyder at January 2, 2006 02:17 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

I try to remember to turn my face skyward from time to time.

When it hasn't rained in 2 months, and the humidity has grown each week since then, drinking that big, cold rain, even a few drops, makes it a good summer in Ohio.

It's also what porches are really all about. .)

Posted by: MBains at January 2, 2006 06:09 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs