petrichor (noun) ˈpeˌtrīkôr An earthy, pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.
I slept until 7:30 one morning, which is something I couldn’t recall doing in years—at least not without benefit of the flu. I’m not one to sleep late or sleep longer than six or seven hours, but I logged a staggering eight and a half hours with nary a twitch. Why? Because it was raining and cool and dark and the bedroom windows were open and it felt like camping. I usually wake up often during the night, staring at the ceiling or walking around the dark house dividing the night into pieces, but not that night. If I woke up even a little, I was lulled back to sleep by the sound of the rain on the leaves and the distant rolls of thunder. When I finally looked at the clock it was 7:30, and I had to force myself to get out of bed. I only did so because I felt a little guilty for sleeping so long.
I opened the front door to let our dog, Milo, outside, but the rain and wind stopped him cold. He still expected a biscuit for whatever effort he thought he did, but he was denied. We then walked over to the laundry room, where I coaxed him out the side door and closed the door behind him. He paced around in the drizzle a bit until he couldn’t hold it any longer. When he came back to the door, I let him in. “Nice job buddy, now here’s your biscuit,” I said. He shook off the dampness and lumbered off defeated, ate the biscuit, and skedaddled back to the bedroom. I’m sure he dragged his butt over my pillow after he jumped up on the bed—the canine equivalent of the last word. Nonetheless, the morning was getting off to a good start in spite of the fickle weather and Milo’s possible assault on my pillow.
I used to love the rain when I was a kid, but when first jobs and my eventual building career took me outdoors, there were days when I began to resent it. Rain made everything harder, sloppier and muddier, and after it stopped, it was still wet and often humid. Over the past few years, I’ve had the luxury of working out of the rain, so I can once again appreciate it for what it is and all the good that it does. A key part of this is having a porch on the back of our house so that I can be outside when it’s raining, which satisfies my weather lust while keeping me dry.
I brewed up a pot of coffee, poured myself a cup, and while still in pajama pants and a sweatshirt, I went outside and parked myself on a wicker chair and watched the wind and the rain pummel the trees. It was nasty. I almost burned my lip on my coffee.
I would hang out in the open garage when I was a kid and watch the rain much the same way, but the watching part didn’t last long back then. One kid after the other would ultimately venture out and start to play. A little rain never kept a good kid in for long. We’d slop barefoot up and down the overflowing street gutters, kicking up water with each step, and when that got old, we’d float makeshift twig boats down the concrete canals until the catch basin sucked them away. When that happened, we’d make more and send them off to the same watery grave.
My mom used to tell us that we weren’t made of sugar, and that we wouldn’t melt if we got wet. “Go outside and do something,” she’d say. The rain didn’t make a lick of difference. For better or worse, her words have stuck with me all of my adult life. I’m not sugar. I won’t melt.
Mrs. G. and I were in Germany a few years ago, and even when the weather wasn’t cooperating; we’d take off and explore the rain-slicked, cobblestone cities. Fortunately, my wife has the same lack of good sense that I have when it comes to rain, which is why we always pack raincoats along with our umbrellas. The umbrellas seldom get used though, since these require genteel strolling and a bit of a slothful attitude. With our raincoats on and our hoods drawn tightly over a baseball hat, it’s off we go in the passing lane, leaving the umbrella crowd in our wake.
I worked outdoors in all kinds of weather for slightly shy of forty years, and there were only a handful of days when I regretted it. I enjoyed being a part of the elements and honestly, the only days I dreaded were the ones over ninety degrees. I’m not designed for that special kind of weather nightmare, but the rain? Most of the time, it never bothered me.
As I sat on the porch trying to nail down the words to this last paragraph, the light drizzle turned to hard rain, and suddenly began to come down even harder, switching directions from west to east. I could see the undersides of the leaves and there wasn’t a bird in sight—something that doesn’t happen often. This looked to be an all-dayer, but it didn’t matter. I had a full bag of coffee in the cupboard and an empty day on the calendar. It could rain all it wanted.