Monday, June 29, 2009

Rain, rain: Unnerving or mundane

The view from the porch on a rainy day.

Simply Living

(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel June 29, 2009)

I've been enjoying the summer rains. The steady tattoo on the metal roof is a soothing sound on a hot afternoon.

I didn't always feel this way. When we lived on Cape Cod, rainy weather made me nervous. The house we lived in had two large skylights, and one of them leaked. I never knew when it would happen. Sometimes it would rain like crazy and we'd have no problem at all. Other times -- maybe when the rain came from a certain direction or with enough force -- water would work its way through the seams and seep into the house in a steady stream.

Although my clever, inventive husband can usually fix anything, the leaky skylight had him stumped. He repeatedly caulked, flashed and sealed the glass, but no matter what he tried, rain inevitably found its way around the repair. Many a rainy night I lay in bed tired but too tense to sleep. My ears were on alert, listening for the drip-drip-drip of rain falling on the yellow pine floors. I'm glad those days are over. As much as I enjoyed the expansive view those skylights provided, I don't miss the anxiety they caused.

In Florida, we live in a skylight-free home. When we built our house, I wanted to install some overhead glass, but Ralph was insistent. "Never again!" he declared. "No more skylights. No more leaks."

He was right about the leaks -- our Florida home doesn't have any. No matter how hard the rain falls or how long a downpour lasts, I don't worry about drips seeping through to ruin ceilings, stain floors or infiltrate siding. Now when it showers, I simply sit back and enjoy the show.

And what a show it has been! After months of drought, plants have responded with a flush of new growth. If one measure of happiness is the loudness of song, then birds and frogs must be a happy lot. Lakes respond, too. After so many wet kisses, water levels have begun to rise. It's a slow dance back to normality, but with the percussive beat of raindrops pouring down, a seasonal rhythm is once again in play.

I find myself gravitating to the porch on rainy afternoons. From beneath the shelter of a well-sealed roof, I can watch the liquid world in action.

Puddles form on the dirt driveway. Droplet-sized splashes dot the lake's surface while a cool breeze replaces the stifling heat. Often I see rainbows.

I've never prized precipitation more than I do now. We went without regular rainfalls for so long, I'd forgotten how uplifting a downpour can be. Rain can be revitalizing. It washes away dirt, dust and stickiness, replenishes the aquifer, increases lake levels and quenches the parched throats of both animal and plant life. It can also be fierce. As my leaky skylight taught me many years ago, even a light rainfall can cause heavy damage, given the right conditions.

As we work our way through the first month of hurricane season, I'm hoping that the conditions for destructive storms don't materialize. Let lakes fill with water. Let plants drink their fill. But let's hope that people enjoy inclement weather within safe, dry shelters.

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