Friday, October 11, 2013

Rain in Seattle--Is it a Blessing?

Photo I took of downtown Seattle, from the I-90 floating bridge
They say there are two seasons in Seattle: August and the Rainy Season. Every outdoor scene in the 1993 film "Sleepless in Seattle" showed torrential rain.

Well, it's not like that. We're London-esque, usually living under a blanket of gray punctuated by drizzles. By spring, lichen has turned the sidewalks green and four kinds of moss drip off the trees in my backyard.

Just this week I used the kids' magnetic letters on my refrigerator to spell out "stop raining!" a wasted command, for sure. This September broke the record for most rain, 6.1 inches, compared to the usual average for that month of 1.5 inches. We bounced almost half a wet inch off our umbrellas in just the last 24 hours.

I'm a sun person; my mood is in direct proportion to the amount of bright sunshine I see. Sun is universally equated with happiness--You are my Sunshine; you're never my downpour.

But according to Jewish tradition, rain is not only a blessing, but a reward for doing what God wants. The seminal Jewish prayer, "The Shema" ("Hear O Israel...our Lord God is the One and Only") describes three types of rain as the result of diligently following the rules; those who flout them will see the heavens "restrained" and no rain will fall. Hebrew actually has at least four words for rain--geshem, which shares the same root as "gashmiut," worldly material; matar, rain, the basis for the word for umbrella; and for precipitation at different times of year, yoreh (the early rain) and malkosh (the late rain).

The more words a culture has for something, the more important it is. We in Seattle deal with quite a bit of moisture, so you'd think we'd have a plethora of rain words. Our newspapers have two: Showers (light rain) and Rain (steady to pelting rain). You will not see the word "drizzles" in our print media. No, "drizzles," in Seattle parlance, is "chance of showers." Nimbus clouds with spaces creating stops and starts of showers or rain, is called "Sunbreaks."  When the sky is a low blanket of misty drizzle that might evolve into recognizable clouds, you'll read "Chance of sunbreaks." Clouds that do not produce water are called "Sun."

Those who read the weather forecast here, a small and masochistic crew since the forecast is irrelevant to the actual weather, look for the bright side. They'll peruse the weekly lineup, see "chance of sunbreaks" four days on, and chirp, "We're supposed to get good weather on Thursday!"

There's no need to answer. These are the same folk who thought Barack Obama was going to bring Hope and Change.

This is not to complain. We do get some interesting clouds. My draperies do not fade. The

Mt. Rainier is right there. Really. (btw, I took this photo)
skin cancer rate is low. Vitamin D sales are brisk. Gray goes with everything.

And we have great fun playing a cruel game with visitors, insisting there's a 14,400-foot mountain right there, that they just can't see because of the clouds. Mount Rainier is almost a religious experience: you can't see it, but you know it exists.

I should add that we just ended a most beautiful summer. July had zero rain.

I have joined the Cloud Appreciation Society, and highly recommend their gorgeous gallery of photos as a pleasurable way to spend several hours. I've learned a lot about the clouds that fill our view: Our altocumulus undulatus bring...rain.

But rain makes our lush Northwestern environment so green. How about this deal: rain at night, sun during daytime. That would please everyone.

1 comment:

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