Tonight is a stormy night.
That’s not a big deal in most places. Growing up in Houston, it rained and stormed most days of the summer. Rain hitting the tin roof, and thunder rolling into the night were the lullabies of my childhood. But, since moving to Utah in 2008, rain is a fleeting dream. For those of you who don’t already know, Utah is a desert. Not only is Utah a desert, but it is a desert in a drought.
Tonight’s storm wasn’t the fleeting sprinkle I’ve become accustomed to since moving here.
Utah rains tend to be short, half-hearted affairs, that seem to end before they truly begin. The dust atop the clay earth is dotted with a few drops of water, and dry again before you have time to register the weather change. Already the gray clouds are burned away by the July sun, leaving only a half-remembered dream of precipitation. Summer is a season for dry heat, sun burns, and wild fires. Rain is as rare as it is precious, so we all watch for it in anticipation, marvel at it’s fall, and mourn it’s swift departure.
But tonight, it truly rained.
Water pooled on the front porch, and flowed down the sloping driveway. It pattered on rooftop, and rapped against the window sill. Thunder rolled, and occasionally crashed in the clouds, and lighting flashed in the heavens. Wind rustled the tree outside my window and howled in the chimney. For a whole evening, the rain chose to commit to this moment and this location.
I can never let a storm go unappreciated.
Rain is cathartic- releasing and relaxing. When the skies turn gray and the wind starts to blow, I can finally allow myself to just be. Nothing exists outside me and the weather. In that time, in that place, I can just watch watch and listen- embracing a moment in time where life itself doesn’t exist or have meaning. It is the escape I search for, but cannot find. It can only be experienced when it comes on it’s own. It cannot be chased, ignored, or recreated.
I’ve tried and failed to capture the moment.
I’ve tried listening to noise apps and storm recordings. I’ve tried dimming my lights to imitate the cloudy skies. I’ve tried to chase the relief I get from storms at home, coffee shops, in the mountains, and even in my car- but nothing comes close to the real thing. A sunny desert drive brings a sense of freedom and independence. A hike in the mountain is peaceful and invigorating. A day at the bookshop is cozy and content- but a night at home with a glass of wine and a storm combines all those releasing, relaxing, and rejuvenating experiences all at once.
Maybe that’s why so many of us love the rain.
While many children are afraid of the loud cracks of thunder, and intimidating flashes of lightning- few carry those fears into adulthood. Instead, we learn to fear other things: losing loved ones, being hurt or betrayed, losing our jobs, failure- the list goes on and on. The fears we had as a child become oddly comforting. Maybe because we know we conquered fear before, so now it’s a reminder that we can come to accept and even embrace what we cannot control.
If nothing else, rain represents life and renewal.
Without water, there is no life- so in this sense, rain literally represents life. Storms bring destructive lightning, damaging winds, and threatening thunder- but it also brings life-renewing water. It is a force of nature we have stood in fear and awe of for millennia- and will likely do for millennia more. Yes, storms can bring floods and fires (don’t I know from living in flood plains and desert mountains), but it is also what makes life possible. When the skies crash, flash, and pour- it’s like the heavens are saying: “I too, have life”.