Again the woods are odorous, the lark Lifts on upsoaring wings the heaven gray That hung above the tree-tops, veiled and dark, Where branches bare disclosed the empty day.
After long rainy afternoons an hour Comes with its shafts of golden light and flings Them at the windows in a radiant shower, And rain drops beat the panes like timorous wings. Then all is still. The stones are crooned to sleep By the soft sound of rain that slowly dies; And cradled in the branches, hidden deep In each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. Jessie Lemont], from Poems
It seems in May everything explodes with energy: the birdsong earlier and louder the grass nearly squeaks with growth the buds unfurling before our eyes.
There is much momentum running pellmell into longer days; I need to catch my breath.
As showers blow in from clouds gray and thick with menace, dumping their load, everything stills from the drenching, waiting for a shaft of light to break through again, turning everything to gold.
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary It rains, and the wind is never weary; The vine still clings to the mouldering wall, But at every gust the dead leaves fall, And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary; It rains, and the wind is never weary; My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past, But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast, And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The Rainy Day”
People who grow up in the Pacific Northwest suffer from peculiar climate-related disorders unique to only to us. This deserves a page in the next version of the DSM — the diagnostic psychiatric manual: we in the PNW don’t feel 100% normal unless it is raining. We love weather like we’re having right now – full on gray and full on wet with threats of northeast winds and snow.
In fact, we born and bred web-footers can feel downright depressed when it is sunny all the time. We groan inwardly when yet another day dawns bright instead of gray, we start to look longingly at accumulating clouds, and we get positively giddy when morning starts with a drizzly mist.
It’s difficult to say what exactly is at work in brain chemistry in cases like this. It is the opposite effect of classically described Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosed especially in those transplants from more southerly climates who get sadder and slowed down with darker days and longer nights. In people like me, born a stone’s throw from Puget Sound, the more sunlight there is, the more doldrums I feel: desolaration (desolation from too much solar exposure). The grayer the day, the wetter the sky–> a lightening of the heart and the spirit: precipilicity (felicity arising from precipitation).
Like most northwesterners, I have low Vitamin D levels even in the summer. It just isn’t seemly to expose all that skin to UV light.
So I celebrate the profound relief of a rainy day, thank you. There would be no internal conflict about feeling compelled to go outside to work up a sweat and soak up the elusive sun rays. There would only be the cozy invitation to stay inside to read and write and sleep.
I know I’m not alone in this disorder. Many of us are closet sufferers but would never admit it in polite company. To complain about sunny days is perceived as meteorologically, spiritually and poetically incorrect. It is time to acknowledge that many of us are in this wet boat rowing together.
Robert Frost (definitely not a northwesterner) confessed his own case of desolaration in the first stanza of his poem November Guest:
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me, Thinks these dark days of autumn rain Are beautiful as days can be; She loves the bare, the withered tree; She walks the sodden pasture lane.
And Jack Handey, the satirist, summarizes the real reason for the guilty pleasure of the northwest native in liking rain:
“If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying.’ And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.”
Okay, okay, I guess we’ve been really naughty to have so much rainfall in the last month. We should repent for our misbehavior and eventually God’s tears will dry up and the sun would shine again.
Then again, maybe God likes a good rain and a good cry as much as we do.
Green was the silence, wet was the light the month of June trembled like a butterfly ~Pablo Neruda from “Sonnet XL”
We are now four days into summer but aside from the date on the calendar, it would be difficult to prove otherwise. After a dry stretch of warm late spring weather, it is now unseasonably cool, the skies stony gray, the rivers running full and fast, the ground peppered with puddles. Rain fell hard last night, hiding behind the cover of darkness as if ashamed of itself. As it should be.
What all this moisture will yield is acres and acres of towering grass growth, more grass than imaginable, more grass than we can keep mowed, burying the horses up to their backs as they dive head long into the pasture. The Haflingers don’t need to lower their necks to graze, choosing instead to simply strip off the ripe tops of the grasses as they forge paths through five foot forage. It is like children at a birthday party swiping the frosting off cupcake after cupcake, licking their fingers as they go. Instead of icing, the horses’ muzzles are smeared with dandelion fluff, grass seed and buttercup petals.
In the northwest, June can tend to shroud its promise of longer days under clouds. Outdoor weddings brace for rain and wind with a supply of umbrellas, graduation potlucks are served in the garage and Fourth of July picnics stay safely under cover. There is a wary anticipation of solstice as it signals the slow inexorable return of darkness from which we have not yet fully recovered.
So I tremble as I too splash through the squishiness of late June, quivering like a wet butterfly emerging from its cocoon ready to unfurl its wings to dry, but unsure how to fly and uncertain of the new world that awaits. In fact the dark empty cocoon can look mighty inviting on a rainy June night or during a loud mid-day thunderstorm. If I could manage to squeeze myself back in, it might be worth a try.
Drip drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.
For shame the sun will never show himself,
Who could not with his beams e’er melt me so;
My dripping locks—they would become an elf,
Who in a beaded coat does gayly go. ~Henry David Thoreau from “Summer Rain”
How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the window-pane It pours and pours; And swift and wide, With a muddy tide, Like a river down the gutter roars The rain, the welcome rain! ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from “Rain in Summer”
Everything blooming bows down in the rain:
white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers
lie shattered on the lawn. ~Jane Kenyon from “Heavy Summer Rain”