It rained last night. We woke up to a steady pouring rain, the kind I associate with northeastern autumns, where calm windless showers wash the streets clean, gurgle in the gutters, and drag the yellow maple leaves off their branches to cover the lawn.
Here in southern Arizona that’s a much more rare occurrence. This is a “winter storm,” in local parlance, but using the word storm seems far too harsh for what we experience. It’s just a nice steady rain that rinses the dust off, not even enough to fill the dry washes with brown floods like the summer thunderstorms will do.
I laid in bed for a while because the sound of rain on the roof seemed so novel, and it took my mind back to many times in the Airstream when I lay in its bed and listened to the patter of rain on aluminum. I remembered lovely quiet mornings in the Florida panhandle where the sand hisses as the rain hits it, cold deluges in June in Vermont, and days in the dark green rainforest of the Olympic peninsula. We’ve had great rainy days all over the country, everywhere except in the desert southwest.
The rainforest sticks with me the most. We visited the Hoh Valley five years ago in October, a particularly rainy month even by rainforest standards, when thirty inches of rain will settle on the moss and keep the wild-looking Salt Creek rushing gray and chilly. I remember that it never stopped raining in the campground, not even for a second, over two days. But strangely the rain was inoffensive; it was a constant “pink noise” that reminded me of a pleasant humming. The air was still, the rain fell straight to the earth and dripped off the Airstream’s awning, and the sound of each little droplet splashing down was muted by the grass and the omnipresent thick moss. The effect was to make the quiet campground into a sort of Zen Garden where you almost could not raise your voice or tread heavily or think angry thoughts. It invited contemplation.
And it invited homey thoughts. After hiking around the mossy trails and visiting the National Park rangers, we checked out the creek, hunted for animal signs, and eventually settled into the Airstream for Eleanor and Emma to bake apple pie. We had apples that needing eating or cooking, but I believe that the steady cool rain had something to do with the inspiration too.
At the time I wrote in our blog about the events of the days, but when it rains now I think back to those places and times with a different perspective. If I close my eyes and just listen to the light drumbeat of rain on the roof I can travel back to those places and experience them again. It’s different, as if I have been able to actually go there and feel the same magic of the first discovery with our 7-year-old child, but reflect on things that didn’t occur to me the first time.
I find I am doing more of this lately, reliving the highlights of those three glorious years when we were free to travel North America as much as we wanted, and revisiting places with the perspective of today. It’s a cheap way to travel. But it also reminds me that we need to do a little more of that in the near future, just to build up the cask of memories and keep us from only reliving the past. I don’t like the thought that our biggest and best life experience might be behind us, and I’ve got plenty of friends who are much older than us who are continuing to have spectacular adventures. They prove that even though circumstances will change, you can get out there and experience the real world anytime you can hitch up the Airstream.
The rain has stopped now and puffy cumulus clouds are now drifting through a deep blue sky. The breeze is up. That’s Arizona for you. It’s as if the rain never happened. It’s time to go outside and check that the Caravel is still dry inside. Perhaps we’ll go for a walk too. But even though the storm is long gone, the memories of rain will stick with me for the rest of the day and give me ideas, and maybe even wish that tonight it rains a little again.