New Brunswick

Wet Enough For You?

Rain pattering you to sleep, rain when you wake up, scalloping down the street, clattering like a spill of nails on metal roofs. In the occasional gust, branch shadows brush a streetlamp-lit wall. November storms.

     The streams are gushing; water running through ditches is staged by rip rap boulders big enough that the ruffly cascade appears contrived by a landscape artist. Rain falls, water sluices down and down, sometimes wrenching gravel out of road shoulders higher up so that a wash of small stones litters the lower roads. Rainfall enters creeks, broadening them into a fan of rills that finally empty into the sea.
     The writer David Adams Richards used the phrase "the slanting rain" so often that I can't think of New Brunswick without picturing men who need a shave ducking into some pool hall to get out of the weather.
     The Weather Network page has codes, two blue drops for showers; four for actual rain; a red banner across the top if there is a rainfall warning, which there were three of in November. 50+ mm, or two inches, and sometimes it came down in great floods or buckets. Bucketing.
     A BBC columnist asked the rhetorical question anyone in a wet climate might ask: if the Inuit, formerly called Eskimo, have 50 words for snow, why not 50 words for rain? In the list were some English-isms I hadn't heard, including tippling down, which connects the idea of hiding out in a pub to rain; and raining stair rods, some ancient British architecture reference, I presume. He did include raining cats and dogs, though, and a few other terms familiar to North Americans.
     Rain can fall in summer of course and feel warm, even refreshing, and there can be sun showers, that impossible meteorological contradiction that impels you to slip your sunglasses out from your rain jacket.
     But the rain I think of when I think of rain is the November rain that drills, or showers or teems down from skies that look as if the sun is a distant relative, the kind that visits only on special occasions.  The dialogue between chill raw steady rain and the slosh of waves against the ferry dock can make you feel as if you will never be warm and dry again, as if your skin is ineffective as kleenex between the watery two-thirds of your body and the environment. Other times rain drops so hard it can take your breath away as torrents spew from the low sky driving rivulets into hills and eroding the banks of creeks, including the one behind the house. Not too cold yet to keep the window absolutely closed, the rain does not come in, but the roaring creek and the rain wake me and I get up and go to the window in front and watch it sheeting down as if there is no space between the needles of water and the air itself. It's so heavy, it can't last. Thunderous yet without thunder, like the advancing army of Greeks across the plain to the gates of Troy. "As when the sea's swell hurls on a booming shore, wave after wave at the west wind's stirring..." (Homer) Like the the sound of thousands of hands spontaneously clapping. Pelting the gutters, splashing out the drain pipes. The street is coursing with it. How long can it really last? And then it does eventually slow, to the more customary steady patter, a sort of coastal lullaby.

Once in the far west of Ireland I stood on a high promontory and watched squall after squall blow in. I had started out in sun that shone on green, nibbled-down pasture where sheep grazed, and gleamed on the barbed wire meant to keep the beasts from the cliff edge. Then rose a gusting wind that forced me to grab onto the wire so not to be blown off myself, then a downpour that defied my anorak, then the sun again, and way out on the western sea, massing clouds began a repeat of the same cycle. During one of the intervals of sun, I hurried back to the road where I was scolded by a local for having risked my life out there. Needless to say I was soaking wet.