Fellow Oregon author Matt Love penned a terrific book titled Of Walking in Rain. In it, Matt writes about what it is to live in one of the rainiest places on earth – a Western Oregon trait we worry may dry up with time. Anyone living in the Pacific Northwest must read this book, as I did a couple years back. I must assert, however, that one thing did bug me. I did keep meaning to write my simple rebuttal – and yes, it has taken me awhile. Alas, here goes.
I share the author’s apparent love, and sometimes craving, for rain. The sound of it as it taps on windows, creates ripples on rivers, and even patters on tents (okay, as long as it’ll be gone by morning) is as reassuring as a childhood lullaby. For after all, for many of us it was frequently tucked in with us as our night music. But, for all that – yes, Matt, real Oregonians do SOMETIMES use umbrellas. (And you, sir, can quote me on that.)
No, not on those days when you are ambling, meandering places you love, treasures held dear to the heart. When you need to feel the earth’s moisture drip along your body: down your cheeks, and saturate your collar and socks. Nope, not then. Also, not on those other days when you crave raindrops to mix with salty streaming tears, released because you are sad or frightened or feeling unbelievably more emotional than you ever thought possible. No, not then.
I’ll be honest. There was a time in my life (I was six) when I believed umbrellas were good for only one thing: catching the wind – imagine, Mary Poppins. I was certain it would work, and waited for a good windstorm one winter. I grabbed the only umbrella I could find in our Willamette Valley home (my parents might have shared Love’s opinion about umbrellas during that time of our lives), pulled on my boots, and climbed up on top of our five-foot fence. I took a deep breath, stuck out my umbrella – mimicking how I remembered Poppins doing it – held my breath and jumped. And I hit the ground. Pretty hard, actually, for a shrimpy little kid.
But since then, I have determined exceedingly important opportunities to use an umbrella here in Oregon. (For extra measure, I’d like to be able to list ten good reasons, but let’s not push it!) During these times I am relieved to have toted a domed nylon device with me, even if this purpose-of-the-umbrella isn’t nearly as exciting as what my six-year-old self imagined. And certainly, I would never be silly enough to open my umbrella when the gusty wind will rip the nylon from its cheap aluminum staves: for I admit to have lasted more than one season with an umbrella permanently deformed by wind.
So here it is – my reason. When I am running down the hill toward my bus stop or across town to a meeting or anywhere as buckets of raindrops pelt the ground so fast and hard that drops bounce back up toward the sky, but I have to enter a building or vehicle and be near other people, and would prefer not to create a waterfall underneath the place I sit or stand, water permeating through my clothing, dripping from my hair, making me look like I fell into the river: that’s when I value my umbrella. It’s not that I am so self-conscious, it’s just difficult to concentrate on something other than rain when Oregon’s raindrops remake themselves into puddles traveling across you, onto chairs, tables and floors.
That’s it. Truly. Otherwise, let the drops fall. Please! Bathe me in them. As we experience an abnormally dry month without much released from the heavens, I’ll be both the first to plead with gods above to deliver liquid sunshine, and to go for a nice, long walk welcoming those drops that I missed onto my face and inside my collar, reminding me who I am.