Our local weather forecast displays a puffy cloud and raindrops for all five of the coming days. I have known and loved rain in every place I’ve lived.
After a hot and humid August day in Philly, the afternoon darkens and fat raindrops fall. The rain comes hard and fast, breaking the thick air and providing relief from the humidity, if only for an hour or two.
One fall afternoon I heard cheers outside our second-floor flat. I stepped out onto our balcony—and into rain. The schoolchildren below skipped and hooted and clasped hands in an impromtu dance. In the desert, water is a blessing. But it comes at a cost. When the desert rains fall in Jordan, the skies pour with no breaks—for days, sometimes. The blessing comes with violence, invading low-lying homes in the poorer neighborhoods and overflowing drainage channels everywhere. Each year we heard of at least one death from the flash floods, usually a child who bent low to touch the wonder of fresh and flowing water and was then swept away.
Texas rains fall hard and fast, too—with the addition of thunder and lightning and the frequent threat of tornadoes. For all my anxiety over tornado watches and warnings, I miss those stampeding storms of North Texas. The sheer quantity of rain that might fall in thirty minutes time would send a river of drainage through our side yard. I measured each storm by how close our street came to completely filling with water. I love that you can see a storm coming in Texas; approaching heavy clouds are visible for miles across the flat landscape. Storms there are dangerous, more so even than in Jordan, but the landscape allows time to prepare. Take in the yard furniture and toys that will become projectiles in the strong wind. Move the car into the garage to avoid hail damage. Close the windows against wind and rain, and put fresh batteries in the weather radio, just in case the sirens wail and you must seek shelter.
And now, the softer rains of my home state. Yesterday’s rain was not the unrelenting downpour I remember from Jordan. It came with no lightning, no heavy clouds pressing in. As I drove home from the grocery store, the sun shone on distant hills, brightening the fall colors already magnified by a coating of rainwater. I looked to the shining hills, right at the place where sun and rain collide, and there in the distance I saw a rainbow.