Last week, I pulled open the curtains, groaned, turned to Deaven and said, “Ugh, you again. Another sunny day, baby,” as the rays from the window filled the room. Deaven was ecstatic; I accepted it. Most people would be thrilled. Yesterday, I checked the forecast, barged in the room where Deaven was working, shouted guess what, and held my phone to her face. My face was beaming while I said, “100% chance of rain tomorrow!” She groaned.
After spending this morning nestled in bed, I donned my finest waterproof pants over my pajama pants. I put on my green Patagonia coat. I’ve used it so much over the past few years that the Velcro strips that hold it together in the middle are frayed and falling off. Raindrops bounced on and off my hood. My waterproof pant legs swayed back and forth and made a satisfying swish each time my thighs rubbed together. It sounds like my own soundtrack and beat box as I walked. I saw about 6 other people from a distance. On a sunny day, pedestrians and cyclists fill both sides of our street. It doubles as a well-known bike trail. Herds of people on bikes, too numerous to count, whiz by. I weave in and out, pin-balling across the street, to keep physical distance from the pedestrians and cyclists. I turn around all the way around to look every which way. I don’t want to bring down a cyclist while crossing to avoid a pedestrian.
Before my walk, I FaceTimed my dad’s mom who is quarantined in Philadelphia. We talked about how we were both holding up. I told her I’ve been thankful for my introverted nature. She said she’s part of a book group, and all the members except for her are introverts. She told me that, apart from worrying about the virus and grieving, the introverts said they have felt a sense of relief from staying at home, as if a pressure has been lifted. I related to them.
I have similar feelings about rainy days. On sunny days, everyone is anxious to get outside. I feel pressured to take advantage of the sunshine. I want the Vitamin D and the warmth on my skin, but I could take or leave the pressure I put on myself. On rainy days, I snuggle deep in my bed. I don’t feel stuck inside—I relish my time inside. I feel at peace about staying inside for longer than usual. When I do go outside, less people are around. I don’t mind the mud and muck. I dip the bottom of my shoes in the clear puddles full of fresh rainwater. While others hide inside to save their clothes and hair from getting wet, I take in a sacred place the earth shared with a chosen few.
On these sunny days of spring, the air is filled with pollen and the floral scents of the blooms all around. Today, I breathed in the smell of wet soil. I breathed the air filled with the smell of trees, pines, grass and dirt. The satisfaction from smelling rain feels primal. According to Wikipedia, the scent produced when rain falls on dry soil is called petrichor. Petri means stone and īchōr is the blood that flows through the veins of Greek gods. Scientists suspect that we appreciate the smell of rain partly because it meant survival. Rain meant water for us and the crops to drink.
When I was little, thunderstorms meant certain death. We lived in Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley was made by the warm, humid air from the equator mixing with the cool, dry air from the Rockies and Canada. Tornadoes regularly ripped through Texas and our neighbor to the north, Oklahoma. We stayed glued to the news, watching the “First Warnings” as they slid across the bottom of the screen. They would list the counties and say whether they were under Tornado Watch or Warning and Severe Storms. If your county was in the vicinity of a severe storm, the tv would blare an attention signal—three to six short blasts from the tv—and interrupt the program you were watching. They would have an announcement from the National Weather Service and pull up a map of the affected counties. In the house I grew up in, my mom, sister, me, and our dogs would be stuffed in the bathtub. We huddled together. We shielded ourselves with pillows and our twin bed mattress. During a particularly bad storm, we yelled for my dad to come join us. When he didn’t come, we ran in the living room. He was standing in front of our huge bay window in his boxers. He walked over to the front door, swung it open, and walked outside as hail pelted the concrete sidewalk. “It’s just a bad storm,” he told us, trying to calm us all down. We had to give up on him and piled back in the bathroom until the coast was clear. Turns out, he was right. The tornadoes didn’t touch down at our house. They ripped through the neighborhoods on either side of us. During the next big storm, I want to say my dad came to the bathroom with us. We moved when I was in 6th grade. The new house was on a golf course equipped with emergency sirens. It storms so often; I remember getting used to their noise and being able to tune it out.
My fear of storms lessened as I got older and recognized what I could control. I couldn’t control the weather. I did what I could to ease my anxiety. I slowly came out of the bathroom. I took long walks as lightning flickered in the sky above me and the rain fell down in buckets. In Texas, we don’t often see multiple days of rain. Especially in the summer, in twenty minutes, a thunderstorm may come and go. It brings cooler temperatures and then the sun feels brighter after. The plants look reinvigorated, as if they needed a break from baking. If I had off that day, I would run outside when I knew a summer storm was on its way. It is always too hot outside any time past May, so I would start sweating immediately when I walked out the door. When a storm was close, the air felt humid and still. As it approached, the wind would pick up and the sky would blacken. The temperature dropped and fat drops of rain would pour from the sky. The parched ground couldn’t soak it up quick enough, so it pooled in the streets and on the sidewalks. I’d walk outside in the storm. When it was over, I’d slosh back to my apartment in my soaked clothes. The air conditioner was still blasting. I’d walk inside, shiver, peel off my clothes, jump in the warm shower, put on cozy clothes, and feel at peace.
It rained for three of my friend’s weddings. I was a bridesmaid in each one. Two had the ceremony outdoors and the reception indoors. The rain held off for the ceremonies. For one, we went outside at the end of the reception and danced in the rain. I stayed out and was drenched. So much for hair and makeup, but the memories are priceless.
Deaven and I were lucky enough to have a sunny day for our wedding. It did rain for our engagement pictures and our honeymoon. We spent our honeymoon in Turks and Caicos. It rained constantly for the first few days. We passed the time by playing with our tiny hands and each other indoors. It felt like a cruel joke when the rain would let up for long enough to change into our suits, only to start again during the short walk to the beach. When we tried to walk to the opposite side of the island, the clouds followed us. We tried to outwalk the clouds. We spotted blue skies on the end of the island. We walked toward it and clouds would form overhead. In the spot we walked away from, the sun would be shining. The clouds seemed to shift and follow us. Blue skies were always opposite us. Luckily, on our last days, the sun shone bright above. We went snorkeling and parasailing above the impossibly blue, green, crystal clear water.
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