Several years ago we generated electricity from a homemade water wheel. There was 1,500 feet of pipe that went up a forested ridge, and in the fall, that pipeline took a lot of maintenance. Leaves falling from maple, alder, and cottonwood filled the intake. Branches coming down in wind broke pipes. We seemed to be up there every day.
And of course, there was rain.
I remember working out in that rain all day with my father, repairing pipe. My hands would be blue with cold but gloves didn’t work trying to hold small screws. Pipe glue would be hard to spread on pipe because of how wet everything was. The pipe itself was hard to maneuver because it was not only wet, but cold, which made it rigid. We’d have to pack in a small propane torch to warm the pipe. Plus, there is nothing to grip on a pipe, so your hands just slide up the slick PVC.
As an aside, back then I carried a small square backpack that was an old Army surplus radio pack. The original straps had been replaced with rope that cut into my shoulders. But the pack was so sturdy that it easily carried that propane torch, plus jars of pipe glue, hacksaws, screws, battery-powered drills, battery-powered screw drivers, a thermos, and my father’s favorite peanut butter and Ritz cracker snacks.
The forest floor would get so soggy and spongy from all the rain. Fir needles stuck to everything, the creek ran full and noisy, and to be heard over the water we had to shout. One time the saturated ground gave way under my dad’s boot and he sank up to his hip. He had no feeling in his feet and legs from diabetes so he said he was fine. Half an hour later he said his leg was aching a bit, so we hiked back down that steep ridge. And then, at the doctor’s, found out he’d broken his leg.
And of course, I wear glasses, which don’t mesh well with rain. They are either impossible too see through because of sheeting rain, or impossible to see through because of fogging up.
I have a clear memory of my father sitting on the mossy, steep ground, boots braced against an old nurse log, taking a break and smoking his pipe. It’s dumping rain, but he’s content, with a small tendril of pipe smoke twisting up around his stocking-hat-covered head, scenting the wet forest with cherry.
I do love the rain. Even when working in it. Even when we had something like a hundred straight days of rain. Think about that a minute. Over three months of nothing but gray clouds and water. People joked about growing moss instead of hair, and everything got moldy and musty. It was hard on many, never seeing any break in the gray.
I thought it was perfect.
One of the best parts of wet weather is coming in after working in it. Hanging soaked coats and gloves and clothes around the wood stove, where they gently steam and smell like wet sheep. Holding cold hands over the hot, dry heat of a fire. Kicking off boots and struggling to pull off wet socks. Struggling just as hard to pull on warm, dry socks over damp feet. The kettle steaming and a mug waiting. Knowing you don’t have to go back out and can now sit without guilt by the fire, book in hand.
I love the sound of rain, too. The sound of water running over gutters, splashing, hitting the ground, the roof, the umbrella, the hood. I love the smell of wet earth. I love the sight of full rivers and streams, rushing over boulders and breaking in white foam around old logs from past floods. I even like the smell of wet pavement.
Wet dogs, not so much. But I like how happy they get after being toweled off, and how they shake dampness, scattering drops like they’re bringing the rain inside.
So I’m thrilled the rain has come back. I’m ready to settle in for my favorite seasons of fall and winter. Soon it will be cool enough to build a fire.
And hang wet coats around the flames.
P.S. I wrote this last week. A couple days ago I came out of Costco with a cart piled high with a big stocking-up shopping. I got to the car just in time for dumping rain, thunder, lightening, and wind. I got completely soaked trying to cram everything in the car before it all got wet and ruined.
But yes, I still love the rain.