In a scene from my childhood, I watched through our living room window as kids my age played in a rainstorm. They were laughing and having a wonderful time getting soaked. The streets and gutters were awash. One boy sat down in a flooded gutter as the water pushed against him and splashed hard around his body. I felt envy. Not because they were having fun without me, but because they were playing in the rain. I was home with my mother, and she told me that I couldn’t go out because I would get soaked and catch my “death-of-cold.” I have since learned and admit more about myself, and about colds.
The word ‘pluvial’ refers to rain or something characterized by abundant rain. The suffix ‘phile’ denotes fondness. Consequently, a pluviophile is one who finds joy and peace of mind on rainy days. I was taught that rainy days were sad, as in the Carpenters song lyric; “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” I was to believe nice days were sunny, cloudless, and warm. I’ve never felt that way. Sunny and pleasant days have their place, but few are enough. Later in life, I admitted to liking cloudy, rainy days. I now identify as a pluviophile. These days, I’m often asked why, after more than twenty years in California, Texas, and Florida; I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. I ask, “Do you know what a pluviophile is?” Like it should be news to me, I’ve repeatedly been told “it rains a lot there.” I reply with a smile, “Yes, it does.”
“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” ~ John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs
My involvement with rain changes with its many forms. Scientific names apply based on how it comes about. But, I am talking about how the rain itself varies from torrential downpour to a gentle drizzle. Duration, wind, thunder, lightning, air temperature, and other factors contribute to our experiencing rain. There are times of rain just falling, and times with thunder and lightning. There is morning rain, afternoon rain, and rain at night. Each is emotionally and physically encountered differently. It can be seen and heard while keeping dry, thus precluding feeling the rain. Only outdoors can we dance in the rain. If I don’t perceive rain with senses—I just get wet. Our world changes when it rains. We need it, just as we do sunshine. To me life smells, feels, looks, and sounds more alive in the rain. In the city, rural areas, and in the forest, everything improves. When I am with the rain, I heal and recover. It’s a spiritual exposure difficult to explain. I’m not especially spiritual, but in rain I sense life — nature.
I recently delayed my daily walk when rain was forecast. After waiting for the rain to start, I donned shorts and tee. I was off in good spirits, expecting to be, and was, soaked. After an hour, I was back home. I sat on a dry and covered bench, removed my soaked shoes and socks, slapped water from my dripping baseball cap, and chuckled. I was thinking how others might consider me deranged. But, this is why I’m here.
Nighttime rain is different—good, but different. There’s more drama on rainy nights. When I have a challenging day, I like to experience night rain by imagining the character of Mike Hammer from a Mickey Spillane crime novel. I picture me on a dark, moonless night; standing under a lamp post illuminating my silhouette. With muffled, distant thunder following flashes of light, rain sparkles from the beams of the light post. I wear the characteristic trench coat with raised collar and a gray fedora, tilted forward and cocked right. The front brim bent slightly downward with water flowing off. The sound of falling rain is all around. I hear it splash into puddles and onto sidewalks. With water moving everywhere, I forget the day’s problems and the annoying people. But mystery is afoot. Like it or not, Mike Hammer is involved. And of course, there is a woman. As Hammer, in the writing of Spillane, I mumble, “In the flora and fauna of the Bowery, she was a lot of flora and quite a bit of fauna. She looked like she belonged in a field of Wyoming wildflowers instead of wandering through the human backwash of the avenue.” In the night rain, I can do this. Rain brings magic and drama.
I’ve passed through forest after a rain. My senses were filled with sights, sounds, and the aroma of nature. There I can see and feel it because everything is wet. For me, awareness of water is experiencing the essence of living.
Let’s take life, rain or shine, one day at a time. It’s about how we feel. We’re not alone in our emotional response to rain. In the Pacific Northwest, we love the outdoors, rain or shine. Too much shine and we miss the rain. After some rain, we’re ready to let a little sunshine in. “In every life a little rain must fall….” Of course, and why not?
“The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected; I have always considered the rain to be healing—a blanket—the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God