It’s after midnight. I have work tomorrow, and yet I can’t sleep.
Those facts alone shouldn’t be of interest to anyone; I’m a longtime sufferer of insomnia – and under perfectly normal circumstances, this is what I would be doing any other night of the week.
What makes tonight remarkable is that as I was rolling over for the umpteenth time, counting my ten-thousandth sheep, I heard a sound outside my window. (Allow me to quell any hopeful expectations for a horror story – I was not about to be murdered.)
It was rain.
I grew up in Southern California, where rain was an occurrence worthy of at least 8 minutes of airtime on any nightly news broadcast. We’re a community who grew up with restaurants that only provided free tap water upon request, in respect to one drought or another. It makes sense that rain would always be a source of awestruck, wide-eyed excitement for me. Even as a kid, I couldn’t help but envy how a good storm got everyone’s attention.
When I was 12 years old, San Diego was hit with a particularly newsworthy rainstorm – drops fell like bullfrogs from the sky, making fat slapping sounds when they landed. My best friend and I begged our English teacher, Mrs. Ellis, if we could go outside and splash in puddles. We were way too old for these kinds of shenanigans, but she said yes (and I sincerely hope there is a special, puppy-filled circle in Heaven reserved for such teachers). While everyone else was in class, we went running across campus scooping raindrops in the fronts our shirts and heaving them at each other, and I can hardly remember a single more enjoyable afternoon in my life.
Later on, I (regrettably) grew out of the compulsion to jump into a clogged storm drain with both feet. But come to think of it, rain always seems to come with company. I can’t remember ever being alone when those first few drops begin to fall. You always seem to have someone to share it with, don’t you? Someone to hold out your hand with, skeptically, as you both look up at the sky. Sure enough, one will land on your forehead or eyelid and you’ll both shriek like you’ve never experienced anything like it. It provides you with a makeshift adventure – an excuse to seek cover, share an umbrella, get close.
I once read that weather is the most commonly discussed topic in the whole world – it’s practically the only thing that unites us across cultural, political, geographic, and generational divides. (If you ever meet a warlord, cross your fingers that there is some conversation-worthy weather happening outside.) But that said, it’s more than just the social construct.
I love the sound of it – enough that when I heard it outside my window, I turned off the TV and closed my eyes and listened. The pitter-patter of raindrops makes the world feel alive. I even like the sound of it collecting in gutters, pouring out in big splashes onto the pavement. I love hearing cars drive by in the rain, the faint hiss of their tires against the wet road.
I love the smell of rain. Like a drop of water on a blade of grass, rain magnifies everything it touches. In nature, rain smells earthy and fertile. In the city, it’s all concrete and asphalt – but in a way that somehow smells like stone. Like the deep, fundamental elements of the earth being awakened.
I love the way it looks. Have you ever noticed that in nighttime scenes in movies, they wet the pavement before they shoot? That’s because it makes the light reflect in the streets. Everything is all dewy and shiny and picture-perfect. Because I never had the benefit of snow, I will always associate Christmas with rain – the reflection of red and green string lights in driveways.
I love the way rain washes everything out. Dirt that has been accumulating in forgotten corners is suddenly rinsed clean. As an asthmatic, so much of life feels like dust being kicked up, air feeling polluted, and when it rains it’s almost as if the water stamps all that out. Rain bathes the world anew.
I used to water my mom’s garden that way, showering rosebuds with the hose like I was anointing them. I imagined them stretching their leaves, reaching toward the heavens in gratitude. Like they were the Tin Man and I was Dorothy with an oil can.
Sometimes I feel like my soul must operate the same way. Like some part of me becomes shriveled without me knowing it – and the rain makes me want to reach and stretch and open back up.
My window is open, my lights are off, and I listen as raindrops tap a familiar metronome outside.
The world around me feels alive, and so I must be alive too.