It’s raining. It is, after all, Oregon in Winter and “there will be months of rain” before the sun comes again in June. But, today, it’s a steady rain.
There are many types of rain here. Some days, it’s not rain at all, just an incredibly thick cloud cover that goes on into the sky for twenty minutes when you fly out of or into Portland. Some of the clouds are thick and puffy, others long and lean, and they just go on forever. If there is a break in one layer, the next reaches over to cover it. Clouds. No moon, no stars, no sun—just clouds. Sometimes, a piece of a cloud breaks off and twines itself around a Douglas Fir, or a mountain top, or the edge of a waterfall at Silver Falls State Park, obscuring the branches or lines and angles of rock, creating a classic Oregon moment. Sometimes, the clouds come down to the ground, mix with wood smoke and exhaust fumes, and create air that feels like you are back in Dickens’s London on Christmas Eve, with Scrooge. This usually happens the week before Winter Break….maybe it’s just the general feeling at school. On these days, I wrap up in wool and mutter “Dank” as I walk out the door. Christmas lights glow in the distance on my way to and from work. Clouds, especially low clouds, do not mean rain, they just mean no sun.
Then there is rain. Today is a steady rain, but not too cold. The air smells fresh and the cats will go out. I walked home from the library last night unclogging street drains with a long stick in the rain and it was quite lovely. The surge and swirl of water freed from the leaf and needle dams….It could be worse. It could be a cold rain, when the air is about 35 degrees. Then, the cats stay in at loose end and chase figments across the living room, or hunt me for entertainment. No one likes cold rain. And, although every student (and teacher) prays for the temperature to drop so that it will turn to snow, it never does. It does, however, become freezing rain, the nastiest rain of all. It’s hard, and it stings, and the roads freeze over – and school might have a two hour delay—but, unless it is a huge storm, it’s ugly. There is no beauty in a freezing rain.
All of these rains are quiet rains. Sometimes, in the spring and fall, the changing points of the year, a loud rain will come in, pounding so hard on the skylight of my room that class will stop and stare at the ceiling. “Whoa!” they say.”It’s raining.” Once in a while, it even drowns out the classroom voices. After these rains, there are rainbows reaching across the hills and the kids at the window will point them out to the rest of us, like they point out rare sunlight in December.
We live with rain and clouds all winter long. Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of the moon or leave work for a rare sunny late afternoon, but, usually, there are clouds, mist, fog, drizzle, showers…water. And then, one day in June, the sun comes out, the light stays until ten o’clock, and it’s summer here. We think it’s a fair trade.