It Come Down
rain is raining all around.
It falls on field and tree.
It rains on the umbrellas here
And on the ships at sea.
Louis Stevenson, from A Child’s Garden of Verses
A rainy night in Georgia.
It’s such a rainy night in Georgia.
Lord, I believe it’s rainin’ all over the
“A Rainy Night in Georgia” by Tony Joe White
You know how good that feeling is when you’re just too grumpy
to want to feel good? That’s how I thought I had made an uneasy
peace with this endless rain.
My laptop is by the window and I watched while three little
kids in yellow slickers and Wellington boots splashed in all
the puddles up and down the street. Then they stopped in my
front yard where there is not supposed to be a pond, but because
of all this rain there is what kids would call—and grown-ups
The kids jumped up and down in the pond, over and over, like
little human Superballs. One of them fell on her bottom, naturally
unfazed. Another squatted down to bathe his face like next
he was going to pull out his Playskool razor. They were soaked
well beyond their skins.
Their mother watched, standing off to the side. Immediately
I thought she must be a good mother, a patient mother, the
kind who does projects with her kids and who would somehow
be able to get them to actually practice the clarinet when
they were old enough to be taking music lessons.
I was not that kind of mother. I sold the clarinet. As for
projects, I never liked them. They required a level of spatial
reasoning my SATs had proved I never had: “Where can I set
the piles of laundry so that little Madeleine will have some
room to build the wind-powered generator for her Barbie habitat?”
And while my girls would have loved to become so muddy, so
messy, so deliciously rain-drenched, I was much too curmudgeonly
a mom to have let my kids puddle jump so egregiously (and
almost subversively) on every neighbor’s lawn up and down
But as I sat at my computer, watching the rain-soaked urchins,
I started thinking that they looked like illustrations from
Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses
come to life. Of course, if they had been illustrations from
A Child’s Garden of Verses, the very last place they
would want to be is upstate New York in this convulsive dreariness.
Yet somehow, as I watched them, my grumpiness began to abandon
me. This felt like betrayal. I had been safe and warm inside
my grumpiness. I didn’t want to think of those lovely times
when I had gone boldly and uncovered into the weather.
Like when I was in my 20s, too much in love, too young to
know the consequences of climate, and had moved to Washington
state just south of the rain forest. Yes, the rain forest.
We had lived amidst flowers that bloomed while we slept—while
it continued to rain. Mornings, I’d scrape the camellias from
My beloved had lived in dry lands and the rain had seemed
to enchant him. We found washed-away roads, the brittle edges
of their blacktop softened; we found bridges that had been
built to allow for a change of course. And all the while the
rain kept a swath of cloud like gauze around Gray’s Harbor.
This wasn’t Brigadoon because it was real and from it real
souls emerged. But still it seems as far away as that.
Which may be why there was a strange and wordless comfort
in the night-black walk my daughter, Linnea, and I took last
summer. When the rain seemed neither to threaten nor stop,
we left our tidy bed-and-breakfast and made our way to the
edge of a tiny harbor. There we stood, wet as clams, watching
anonymous sail boats find their shelter where they could.
Their mast-lights were all that showed, gleaming like fireflies,
but heaving in the waves like kids with sparklers on the Fourth
We stood unseen on shore, the sea drawing away beneath our
feet with each receding wave. We were barefoot, except for
our CVS flip-flops, and we had brought no umbrellas. The rain
was warm. We had planned on getting wet and knew we would
not get lost.
The harbor was tiny; the sheltered crafts were small. And
I was not Matthew Arnold standing on the cliffs of Dover writing
poetry anybody might ever remember or decide to forget. I
was simply a mother with a blooming daughter by my side watching
the pitch and shift of insecure vessels in a rainstorm. There
was nothing—not even as yet our skins—at stake.
But in the blackness, the pitching lights atop the small crafts’
masts reminded us that terra firma is nothing more than a
cloud in our minds. Maybe we spend our lives in a shifting
search for safety—in a random harbor, or in a neighbor’s grassy
front yard, a neighbor who will bless our puddle-jumping and
splashing, or at least, with the mercy of the distracted,
say, let it be.