Appreciating A Wet Walk

It rained for most of the day yesterday, rained some more throughout the night, and is raining still this morning. As this look down our road/driveway shows, my walk today is going to be a wet one.

I don’t mind a wet walk. In fact, I appreciate them as a real change of pace. You’ve got to adjust your mindset for a wet walk, because you’ll need to really pay attention to what you’re doing. I don’t wear my earbuds and listen to music on the wet walks, because I want to stay actively engaged with my surroundings. No wool gathering is permitted. You’ve got puddles to dodge, and an umbrella to maneuver against the windblown raindrops, and potential splashes from passing pickups to watch out for.

But once you get out into all that rain and wetness and puddled terrain, you find things to like. The road has a special shine to it. The rain makes drumming and popping sounds against the fabric of the umbrella and the leaves on the trees and the surface of the puddles. The wet air almost seems to hug you, and the watery breeze smells fresh and clean and good. And when you get back, wetter than when you left, you feel pretty good about going out at all.

Ida’s Impact

We’ve had multiple tropical storms move up through New England this summer, but Ida–which blew through last night and today–was by far the most memorable. The remnants of the storm brought high winds and sheets of rain that dumped multiple inches of water on our community. And that impact doesn’t even compare to the chaos that Ida produced in New York City, according to news reports.

The amount of rain associated with tropical storms is impressive. I can’t find an official announcement of just how much rain fell in Stonington over the last 24 hours, but it was enough to totally flood our down yard, submerging the beds I’ve created and turning some of the lupines and ferns into underwater greenery, and to convert the drainage ditch on the northern border of our property, which normally carries a small trickle down its narrow channel, into a loud, raging torrent of whitewater.

Fortunately, the ferns and lupines that are planted in the flooded area are hardy and capable of withstanding a water onslaught. It’s going to take a while for the yard to dry out from today’s drenching, however.

When It Rains In The Morning

I wore up this morning to the sound of falling rain.  It confused me at first, because the sky to the east was bright with the first signs of a sunrise.  But rain clouds had lumbered in from the west, the rain was starting, and I was hearing that familiar popping sound that raindrops make when they strike a hard surface — in our case, a wooden deck.

People often complain about the rain, but the complaints really aren’t about rain per se.  We all understand that plants and yards and farmers need rain.  The complaints are more about timing.  No one minds rain that falls overnight when you are sleeping and ends before you get up, so it serves its essential watering function while not disturbing your daily routines at all.  But Mother Nature is rarely so respectful of the puny interests of human beings and normally proceeds heedless of the impact on us.

I prefer my rain in the morning, right when I get up.  Rain around noon  seems like it is penning you up inside, and rain right before nightfall robs you of the sunset sky and seems to bring a premature end to the day.  But rain first thing in the morning has a gentler effect on the daily schedule.  You’re not going outside, yet, so it doesn’t interfere with that.  The sound of the rain is peaceful and relaxing.  If you open up the windows you get that rain-soaked breeze, with its heady scent of freshly washed air, to go with that first cup of coffee.  And in my case this morning’s rain means I don’t have to worry about watering the plants outside today — this persistent rain will give them all the moisture they need for now.

To be sure, I will need to take an umbrella on my morning walk today, and I’ll return a bit damper than when I began.  But that’s a small price to pay for the benefits of a good soak that will move through Stonington before noon and leave time for some afternoon sunshine and a chance to survey the results of a good soak on our plants.  Let it rain!

A Good Soaking

It’s been dry up here — so dry that even the most taciturn Mainers have actually remarked on it.  We might get the light spritz from the morning fog, or a very heavy dew, but real rain has been rare over the past weeks.

Until yesterday, that is.  Yesterday, we got one of those long, soaking rains, where the clouds seem to be especially low to the ground and just hover overhead, content to drop their watery contents onto the ground below.  It was the kind of incessant, day-long rain that knocks a few leaves from the trees and produces big puddles on rocks and gravel driveways.  And today and tomorrow we are supposed to get more of the same.  

You can’t overstate the value of a good soaking for the plants.  Watering is nice, and even essential when it has been especially dry, but it is a limited form of relief from the dryness.  The best thing about a good soak is the continuous nature of the rainfall, with the earlier rain moistening the soil and making it more receptive to the raindrops to come.  That’s why a good soak always leaves the plants looking better than a passing thunderstorm that might deposit a lot of rain that simply sluices off the hard-baked ground.  With a good soak, you know the rain is really reaching the deeper ground and plant roots.

And another good thing about a good soak is that it means there’s no need for repeatedly filling up the watering can and hauling it to those remote places that are beyond the reach of your hose.

As a kid, I hated the good soak days, which seemed to unfairly cut into summer vacation.  Now, as somebody who’s just working from home anyway and is interested in seeing some plants do well, I welcome the good soaking days.  I’ll be interested in seeing how the plants have fared when the rainfalls end and the sun comes out again.

Focus On The Farmers

It’s pouring in Columbus right now, and the weather forecast is for more of the same — all day, and for that matter all week.

As I sat on my back porch listening to the rain pound the roof this morning, the phrase that popped into my head was: “It’s good for the farmers.” When we were kids, that was Mom’s inevitable response to a rainy summer day. Forlorn kids would be staring out the window, saddened by the fact that a precious day of summer vacation would be lost to thunderstorms, but Mom would try to put a happy spin on the showers. She was a master of the power of positive thinking In the days before spin even had a name.

Here’s to you, Ohio farmers! Let’s hope the rains produce a bumper crop this year.

August Toadstools?

Here’s a visible sign of just how unbelievably wet this August has been — a bumper crop of ugly toadstools has sprouted in Schiller Park.  A few days ago I jokingly posted about all of the rain we’ve been getting, and wondered whether the next thing we would see was mushrooms — and now they’re here, effectively mocking my idle attempt at humor.

Toadstools, in the middle of what is traditionally one of the hottest, driest months of the year?  I almost hesitate to ask this, but what’s next now — snow?

Rainy August

Normally, August is one of the hottest months of the year. It’s typically the month when your lawn dries out and finally gives up the ghost, and you squirm with embarrassment when your neighbors arch an eyebrow at the carpet of brownness.

Not this year, though. We’re in the midst of the wettest August I can remember, where you need to carry your umbrella every day just in case another gullywasher is going to roll through town. We had a big cloudburst this afternoon, and another one tonight. It’s as if August and April traded places.

The lawn seems to be enjoying it, though. What’s next? August mushrooms?

Half An Umbrella . . . .

IMG_6143The constant rains and blustery, weirdly unseasonable weather have wreaked havoc on our umbrella collection.  The little pop-up umbrellas, in particular, have taken a beating — which is why you see lots of soggy, downcast Columbusites trudging around carrying massive, ultra-sturdy golf umbrellas.

Today as I walked to work it started misting.  After feeling proud that I had remembered an umbrella, I discovered that the canopy on this one had become unmoored from two of its ribs, leaving the cover flapping in the breeze.  Embarrassing, to be sure — but half an umbrella is still better than none.  So long as I could position the umbrella to keep the rain and mist off my glasses, I’m OK.

I’m guessing that Columbus-area stores have never sold as many umbrellas as they have this year.

The Rain, Again

The rain, in Spain, falls again, and again, and again.

I’m as much a fan of My Fair Lady as anyone.  In fact, I’m as much a fan of rain as anyone this side of a farmer.  I enjoy the gentle patter of raindrops on the roof.  I like to see things nice and green, and I know that rain is what makes that possible.

IMG_5904But for God’s sake!  Enough is enough!  In central Ohio we have had gray skies and rain, for weeks now.  Our backyard is so lush and green it looks like the tropics.  And while those of us who live in the Midwest know that we have to endure the constant overcast during the winter months, we expect to be compensated by some blue skies and bright sunshine when summer arrives.  We want to be able to wear shorts and expose our flesh to the sun’s warming rays.  We want to sit outside in the clear, rather than remaining huddled indoors or under umbrellas, looking expectantly at the skies.

But not this summer, not so far.  I’ve come to hate looking at my iPhone weather app, and seeing either the dreaded cloud with lightning icon or the cloud with rain icon, day after day.  Will we ever see the unadorned yellow sun icon again?

What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

IMG_5881One good thing about constant rain:  it helps the flowers.  The ongoing deluge in Columbus has finally revealed the mysterious flowers in our front beds.  They’re lilies, I think, and their distinctive orange markings remind me of a tiger’s colors.  So I’m calling them tiger lilies, whether that’s technically accurate or not.


It’s been a rainy few days in New Orleans–but it hasn’t been a consistent rain. Instead, I feel like Forrest Gump — we’ve seen fat rain, and skinny rain, and windy rain, and rain so powerful you feel like it’s going to knock the roof down.

The most impressive rain storms are what Midwesterners would call gullywashers, with rain so heavy it turns streets into lakes and instantly soaks whoever is caught in the downpour. We watched one such storm advance up the Mississippi River, the rain forming a kind of gray curtain as it swept forward. It gave us fair notice to scurry under cover before the deluge came.

Standing In The English Rain

016We’ve enjoyed our trip to London . . . but if you are someone who is bothered by rain, this probably isn’t the place and time of year for you. It has rained every day we’ve been here, and you’ve just got to make do with it. I’ve learned that spending the worst of the storm in a cozy pub drinking a pint of the excellent Fuller’s E.S.B., for example, is a pretty good way of dealing with the English weather.

In contrast to Forrest Gump’s description of the different kinds of rain found in Vietnam, in London in January there seems to be one kind of rain — fat, wet, cold, soaking rain, and heaven help you if the wind is blowing, too. We’ve seen more mangled umbrellas stuffed into rubbish bins in London than you can possibly imagine, even though the Brits are very good about removing the trash every day. London’s weather seems carefully calculated to keep British umbrella manufacturers in business.

Back, Safe And Sound

Yesterday we drove from Columbia, Missouri to Columbus, Ohio.  It’s a straight shot on I-70, and it was one of those journeys that offer the best and worst that the American interstate highway system has to offer.

At first we rolled through the Missouri and Illinois countryside on a sunny Sunday morning.  We racked up the miles and made good time on good roads, listening to the radio and marveling at the freedom of a fun weekend road trip.

DSC04124Then, as traffic picked up, we encountered the road rage crew — hyper-aggressive drivers who can’t stand to wait in the passing lane with everyone else.  If you drive, you know the type.  You first notice them in the rear-view mirror, darting back and forth through the traffic as they come barreling up.  Then they are upon you, passing cars on the right, stupidly flirting with a semi or two, squeezing into a too-small space in the passing lane left by a driver who still adheres to the quaint notion of maintaining an assured clear distance, and leaving the brake lights of law-abiding motorists flashing in their wake.  If they have to wait to pass, they show their impatience by swinging out to the left of the passing lane to see what is keeping them from driving 90.  I always feel safer when the ragers pass by without incident.

At the Indiana-Ohio border we caught up with the western edge of a slow-moving storm.  On a desolate stretch of road, traffic just stopped for no apparent reason.  We were out in the middle of nowhere in the blackness, the rain pelting down and the traffic inching forward, not knowing whether we were dealing with an accident or a road closure.  It was raining so hard that even putting the windshield wipers on rapid speed provided little visibility relief.  There was nothing to do but grit your teeth, stay alert to the traffic flow, and plow through the storm.  After traffic finally picked up again about 20 miles and an hour or so later, we had to deal with interstate truckers driving faster than conditions warranted to make up for lost time and coating our car with road water in the process.

The day ended with a drive down an unlighted country road in the downpour on our way to pick up Penny and Kasey from the kennel.  When we finally pulled into our garage, our dry and snug little house never looked so good.

Rain Affective Disorder

Central Ohio has had an extraordinary run of weather this summer.  It has rained at least once every day since June 23 — that is, more than two weeks straight — and the forecast for the next two days is for more rain.

IMG_4036We wake up to the low rumble of thunder and the flash of lightning.  We can’t take morning walks because of storms.  Traffic is clogged and slow on our commutes to work because of the downpours.  During the day we look out at angry skies and hear the rain slamming against the window.  At night the patter of rain lulls us to sleep.

When you live in a place, you come to accept the prevailing weather patterns there — or you move.  In Columbus, we understand that the winter months will be overcast and gray, but the trade off is supposed to be sunny and hot summer months where you can play golf, ride your bike, have cookouts, go to the swimming pool, and catch lightning bugs at night.  So far, that hasn’t happened.  People who bought season-long family pool passes are tearing their hair out.  Kids at camp are sitting in soggy clothes, sick to death of doing crafts rather than learning how to paddle a canoe.

People here are trying to maintain a positive attitude about this.  Our lawns look great.  Our reservoirs are full.  And we know that, someday soon, the rains must inevitably end.  But the constant nature of the rain can’t help but have a gloomy impact.  During the winter we endured the bitter, and now this summer we’re not getting the sweet — and the summer is almost half gone.  Our window of opportunity is closing.

Rain, rain, go away!

A Curious Celestial Phenomenon, Revisited

Residents of central Ohio were relieved today when the mysterious flaming ball that appeared in the skies yesterday vanished.  In its place is familiar, comforting gray skies, dull clouds, and rain.

IMG_3453The blazing brightness that the strange golden orb brought with it was too odd and unsettling.  It gave rise to strange urges to remove shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, to dance a little jig on the lawn, to show some bare skin to the world, to smile at the brilliance, and to engage in other forms of unseemly conduct.

No, far better to listen to the patter of the rain against the windowpane, to gaze at a landscape that has been washed clean of vivid color, and to return to the grim perseverance that characterizes the stolid residents of central Ohio.  Far better to remove the source of those curious impulses that we might not have been able to resist for long.  One day, perhaps, that shining source of light and heat in the firmament may return to tempt us . . . but not today.