drought thinking

Big fat drops are sluicing straight down from the sky, smacking the metal housing on the window air conditioner. I’ve closed the bottom half of the apartment windows, but not the top — the smell of rain-damp air, the sharper sound of thunder: these are still novelties to me. Water! Falling from the sky!

I’ve lived two years now in places that rain. I hear how my colleagues grumble and scoff, wishing for sunshine. And when it was grey for two weeks straight, I also very much missed the sun…

but I couldn’t quite get myself to wish the rain to stop.


When I moved to Austin in summer of 1990, June was still the rainy month. It would start pretty much after Memorial Day and run up to, or past, my July 1 birthday. And then there would be the winter rains — less continuous but persistent for longer, Decemberish through maybe March.

I guess that stopped completely around the time my girls hit the middle of elementary school.

I’m not going to look up the dates of the seven-year deep drought, or which year it was that the daily highs first hit 100 in April, and continued into October. I think that year was 2011, though, since that’s the year Bastrop (our neighbor town) burned. As well as two neighborhoods over from ours.

I’d started joking, “Water! From the sky!!” during this time. It wasn’t until we took the girls to Pittsburgh one middle-school June that I reckoned with how that was no joke to them, just true. Pittsburgh’s moderate soggy rains, neither hard nor soft and baffled along by the hills, were facts of my teen years, unremarkable. My youngest would, each time, look at the sky in wonder and complaint. “It does this all the time here, sugar.” Nope. Impossible (to her).

And, I’m realizing, now impossible to me, too.

Droughts get into the bones. They flip “good weather” on its head.

Every rain, I give thanks. Long stretches of bright days, I worry, I scan the tender bright green grasses for signs of scorching, of straw. Remnants in water bottles water our houseplant, or go back into the fridge, or soak a dish. I berate myself when I run the tap.

But right now it is raining, a small-drop gentle persistent rain. The kind that I would lay down in as a little kid in Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky. A gift, like all rain now is for me.

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