I love the rain, I always have. Some of the more peaceful places I can return to are memories of the heavenly gift. This week was no different. Rain washes away soil and gold dust, character defects and things to be accomplished hour’s end. I was never really a cowboy, more of a ranch boy, which is yardwork on a grand and unforgiving scale with a nice hat.
End of summer, into the cold weather, out the other side to spring, time would stand still when I was on the tractor, bathed by a soothing mist. Definitely not summer, it was cool, so gray, so deliciously cold and wet. Crazy me, I smiled looking at the steering wheel, my leather work gloves completely soaked and squishy. Inside waited a fireplace crackling, the smell of coffee, stews or soups bubbling on the stove. Sanctuary from the elements? Not just yet. I felt so completely free, disconnected from civilization’s confines, outside, alone, with the symphony of a trillion raindrops and gentle wind.
Too dumb to come in from the rain and quite happy about it.
Today? I write. It’s a lazy day. I swivel to stare at rain falling on the huge hill outside my big office picture window. Later, when spring arrives, my personal mini-Alp will be covered in wildflowers, waist-high. Summer? A rare career now for Santa Clarita, a sheepherder will quietly arrive. The past few years has been so parched. Last year, last year? The shepherd brought just one sheep. Not kidding. A One-Sheep Spring.
When my daughter was born 21 years ago, we lived in Placerita Canyon. Our house, built in the late 19th century, didn’t have the luxury of what engineers call, “a foundation.” It just sat on bedrock, between two creeks. For years without a miss, you could just cross the first bone-dry barranca unscathed, in Jeep or on a pogo stick. I had a truck with a hot rod engine that could climb trees. During decent rainstorms, you’d kick the 4-by-4 into burrowing gear, take a running start and splash through a shallow creek. As if some Greek omen, the year my Indiana was born, we had Old Testament storms.
Placerita Creek raged, like 10,000 runaway freight trains made of mud and boulders. For months, driving home was impossible. Carrying story notes, groceries, supplies and baby, we’d park a half-mile away, cross the ancient and creaky footbridge at Quigley, then hike home with giggling neighbors. Babies? They’re pretty much waterproof. Still. We wrapped her up as if UPSing her to Nome. Our baby smiled. To be loved AND carried. For everyone? It doesn’t get any better.
Outside our old covered porch were two hitching posts. I always loved that about our home. The rain began. No bigger than a loaf of bread, I held my newborn friend, safe, quadruple-wrapped in swaddling clothes. We listened to the satisfying melody of heavy drops pounding an old roof. A teachable moment, I told her, “Sweetheart. This is what we call — rain.” Years later, when she was 8, middle of the night, Indiana sat on my lap on the sun porch in a driving thunderstorm. We counted aloud the seconds between lightning flashes and thunder loud enough to pop buttons and retinas.
That oddball August storm a few months back? Waterfalls magically appeared in back canyons. Dodging landslides, we made it home. Indy had a “Please, Dad?”
She asked if she could run around in the storm. It’s not raining buckets but stock troughs and there’s my girl, dancing, jumping, stomping in puddles, pirouetting and laughing. Surrendering to the storm.
A few Christmases ago, we stayed at a friend’s oceanside house for a few weeks. First few days, the beach was delicious, unseasonably warm and sunny. Indy made me promise that we’d go swimming — EVERY DARN DAY DAD — while we were there. Of course, a planet-ending storm kicked down the door. Not a regular dousing, but one of those monster tsunamis the Japanese liked to paint on paper room dividers in the 15th century. I’m reading the paper, drinking coffee, basking in a zen state of a toasty house. Appearing before me was a water sprite in a wrinkled little kid bathing suit and a condemning J’accuse stare. Being the wise father I am, I asked: “Are you nuts?”
Arms folded. Damning scowl. You … Promised …
You’re out of the will. I’m calling the orphanage to see if they offer free pick-ups. Drat. Curses. I had given my word. La Jolla’s offshore wind was howling. Icebergs floated by. Save for a nice Eskimo family who waved at us, dragging a dead polar bear, the entire California coast was empty.
“We Shall Swim Every Day In The Cold, Cold Ocean” will be the title of stupid parenting tips I shall write someday. In a torrential downpour, me long past receiving Social Security, we ran up and down the beach. That girl of mine. Teeth chattering, smile a yard wider than her cheeks, she raised her eyebrows and shook her head, “YES!” and I solemnly shook my head, “NOOOoooo — please …” We held hands and high-stepped it into the surf and caught waves until jolly pre-hyperthermia. My girl and I are still both unhealthily competitive. I waited for Indiana to give in first. Yay and hooray I won I won. We left our towels in the car because, what’s the point, there’s no place to put them, and laughed all the way as we sprinted back.
Well. My daughter sprinted. She was in race horse junior high shape, dodging raindrops all the way. I half-heartedly galloped like a soaked and wounded chimp in cut-offs, approaching middle monkey age.
How lucky was I.
Rain. My daughter. Two of the best moments of my life …
John Boston is the world’s most prolific satirist, who wrote the above inclement weather piece indoors, with the heater on 78 and a nice shawl over his legs. If you’re stuck indoors, visit his bookstore at johnbostonbooks.com and purchase some great reads to get through what scientists like to call — winter …