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Appreciating the Rain

Appreciating the Rain

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Have you ever woken up to a faded sun over mountains hidden in fog, and cheered? Today I did, to a light hidden from the gray clouds and mist.

“I think it rained,” were my husband's first words to me. I got up, abrupt with surprised movements, and jerked my head to the window. The world had turned a shade darker, no longer camel-crusted earth lying open under cover of only eager blue sky. Now it was dredged in white, almost silver, light, and the earth was a starker brown.

I was seized with a celebratory gush of exuberance as I followed the flow down with my eyes, listened to the earth licking it upPresently, the skies were holding onto their skirts, collecting within themselves what was yet to come. I could see raindrops in the white nothingness of a cloud-filled sky. I could see it in the cracks of the cobblestones lining my street. I could smell it in the chill of the air and feel its breath nipping my cheek. Rain was everywhere.

The sky deluged in a rickety-rack of tiny, gushing pelts on my ceramic porch, on the stone road and on the thirsty earth beyond. In a moment, I was seized with a celebratory gush of exuberance as I followed the flow down with my eyes, listened to the earth licking it up. This is our miracle, I happily decided. G‑d has blessed us. It is a good opportunity to ask for more.

This thought was a borrowed one from my past, only dressed in brand-new clothes. My father’s annual vacation was to the mountains for a week, in one shanty cottage or another. We would go there as a family, to breathe the air, to see the woods, sometimes to fish, other times to milk the cows, always to connect with the world and our family in a way possible only so near the stars.

My father would always bring along a slender binding of Masechet Taanit, a volume of the Talmud. This was the book he learned on vacation. While we waited in lines, he would open his book, peruse the lines with a low song under his breath, and then report fascinating ideas to us. When we came home from our vacation, we would have a siyum, a celebration that consists of a meal to commemorate the fact that my father had learned the entire section.

At one time in the country, the air turned unnaturally cold, and a rain whipped about the flimsy plaster tiles surrounding our vacation cottage. In the tight rooms where we crammed our belongings and ourselves, we sat huddling, awaiting Mommy’s porridge of farina and milk. We grumbled and grumped about the rain, how our clothes were damp, how the tips of our noses were cold, how we couldn’t go anywhere. Our father was sitting on the only generous chair in the room, his eyes moving over the words of his Talmud.

“Do you know that on a rainy day G‑d is blessing us? G‑d loves us, so He sends us the greatest gift of all, the gift of rain. When we see rain, we should pray for whatever we want, because we know that today G‑d wants to be generous and shower us with good.”

I could never understand, until I came to Israel, that rain was a blessingMy brothers and I were sitting on the thinned carpet, supported and stifled by tall, hard beds. The swimming pool outside was empty, save for dancing splashes rushing up to greet the downpour. The forests stood tall and straight, without human feet brushing away their trampled undergrowth. In our room, a bulb burnt yellow and did nothing to dispel the cloudy afternoon gloom. It was a wasted day.

“If G‑d loves us, He should make the sun come out,” my brother said.

“Right. It should never rain.”

My father turned the pages of his book and started telling us about the droughts that could occur if there was no rain. There were seven stages of hunger, one worse than the other. We listened to the morbid and fascinating information, and before long the time passed, the sun came out, and we could again run in the grass that squeaked with rain.

I could never understand, until I came to Israel, that rain was a blessing, a gift from G‑d Himself. Two days ago, the sun had perpetually baked the vulnerable earth under it with its brilliant glare, and the earth had cracked up like shards of glass for want of water. Sandals, black oxfords and people from all walks of life came together in prayer. They wet their prayerbooks with tears and honest begging, for lifegiving drops of water from the sky that could only be deluged from on high. A dry wind was blowing gusts of dryness across the land. My hands and lips cracked up. My cheeks smarted and grew tight. My lenses popped from my eyes. Everywhere, hope for water grew heavy like a fat drop of rain.

We waited. We gave charity, recited Psalms, and asked ourselves what G‑d wants from us; why is He withholding rain? Then we trusted it would come.

It came, this morning, in fat, leaden drops of rain that fell in torrents, then stopped, then started again.

I woke up my children. “Shimon, Zishe, you want to see the rain?” They unscrewed an eyelid, than another. “It’s raining. Want to see?” They rushed out of bed, a happy expression in their curious eyes. We opened the window. The smell of rain floated in on cold air. They exclaimed and laughed into each other’s faces, silly with giddy joy.

Now we were standing at the open window, admiring the very wetness I had once abhorredThey reminded me of the snowed-in mornings of my New York childhood, when Mommy woke us to a world sugarcoated in snow. As we peered out a window underlined with snowflakes, to branches thick with white, and a backyard of untouched fairy-tale glitter, a glee filled us with warmth. We knew school was out and it was time for the sleds to come out as well.

We were glad that finally, finally, the snow was sticking, not turning into slush and rain. Rain, that horribly wet, cold darkener, was replaced by resplendent white that illuminated the nighttime skies. It was a treat, not unlike the long icicles hanging from the roof’s gutter all the way down to our door that I liked to chink off and lick.

Now we were standing at the open window, admiring the very wetness I had once abhorred. We let it graze us and mist us as it filled the world before it fell, with a splatter, on the floor. For my children, it was the new memory-filled day, the treat of a rainy day.

I peered out into the raindrops, G‑d’s gift to mankind, and prayed. I prayed that we should all be blessed with abundance in all areas of our life, and healthy produce growing in our land. I asked G‑d that just like I now understand the blessing of the rain, I should be granted to realize the blessing in all with which G‑d showers me.

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Cynthia Stevenson Seattle, WA October 8, 2012

thank you for this beautiful memoir; i too recall thirsting for rain when i lived in Israel, though i am from the pacific northwest where it never stops raining, until now. we are in the midst of a drought (mild by Middle East climatic standards),& tthose of us in my house also recognize that the rain comes from G-D alone, and is indeed a gift from Heaven. Blessings to you! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 19, 2011

Rain It is raining now, and has been for most of this week, and the forecast is for more rain, probably through the weekend, here in New England, in Marshfield, MA. So I am peering at all this green, at all that is budding and about to burst open, into new blossoming, knowing the need, the thirst, for rain. This week we have it in abundance, and some of the seeds that have sprouted, that I had planted in containers have been bowed by rain, and I have had to pour off some of this water.

This is a beautiful, poetic piece of writing and you are so right about the yearning for water, especially in times of drought.

And yes, there are floods to answer the query above. And often mudslides, sink holes, and other water related catastrophes.
Life has this quality of too much, or, too little.

But water is essentially life giving, and cleansing. I hear reins and reigns also aurally as equivalents. And for me, sometimes it is weeping, the externalization of my tears, and often, tears of, joy. Reply

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