Fishtown Local: Praying for rain

A woman is seen through rain droplets that formed on a car window as she passes down Main Street in Gloucester. 

What is it about rain? Some people are more affected than others — most of whom don’t like the rain. Eternal sunshine is their thing.

But there is certain group of folks — myself included — who revel in rain. Those dark, serious skies hurrying fast overhead, the collisions of clouds, wind and slanting drops marking their territory, taking over the world. That world feels ominous but expectant. It feels immensely old but on the cusp of something entirely new. New life, new attitude, new crops, new grass, new everything. Feels like everything could be new. New car, new life, new president, new attitude, new School Committee — the sky is the limit. Literally. Feels like a hard rain could fall.

Just those first moments are so exciting, where the sidewalk or windshield or driveway begins to show first drops of an impending storm — tap dancing lightly at first, but then speckling and dappling, filling in all the spaces, commanding all the attention. Then it begins to pour — tapping, drumming, pounding, streaming, splashing — sometimes in sheets, sometimes in waves, sometimes sideways, sometimes not. There are warm rains that call out a siren song to be walked in. Cold rains that call to be hurried through, head down. Rains that you wouldn’t dare go out in but that fascinate through the window pane.

What is it about that feeling when rain is on its way? Yes, the slinky TV weather lady told you it was due but it was those dark skies and rushing drama overhead that cinched it down in the depth of your bones. That feeling of expectation that transcends all politics, all commerce, all resistance — rain is mightier than government, mightier than cellphones, television or car dealerships — it can’t be stopped, delayed or legislated. Life on earth must bow to its rule — uncontrollable and inevitable. It can’t be manipulated by committees, like local government “fixes.” It can’t be self serving or autocratic — it falls on everyone’s heads, equally. There are no local elders or leaders telling people where to get wet or for how long. No self-serving experts directing the rain to benefit them and them alone. Rain is one of the only completely honest things falling on our heads these days. No one is trying to take credit for the rain, jostling to get into the center posing for pictures with the rain, breaking ground to shovel the rain. No, it just runs where it was meant to run, seeking its own level, running to the sea with no agenda — something foreign to the world of government.

But when the rain stops, it stops suddenly. And yes, there is that feeling of pure emptiness, of missing something, of loss. The puddles are sad reminders of former expectation — but beware, those puddles can disguise the dangers and deceptions of life — like the massive potholes outside Espresso’s blighted fence that swallow your car if you mistakenly think they are just a puddle. Straight bang! to the bottom with no warning. The dissembling real world has struck back again, as cruel and uncaring as it has always been. If your or my roof has leaked, basement flooded, driveway swamped, it wasn’t the rain’s fault — it just fell, you or I just weren’t ready. Rain falling from the northeast direction seems to slip through house and roof seams more than the other directions. Why is that? Perhaps it is more sideways and driving from that side of the compass with more wind — that’s why they call it a nor’easter. The east and northeast sides of houses seem to need painting more often than the other sides — they face off in the direction of the ocean, more salt coming at them.

There are many sailors who won’t sail in the rain — most of them, in fact. But one doesn’t even notice the rain when sailing. It’s all water out there, flying and moving. It just bounces off. They only sail in sunshine but they are missing the quintessence of the rain experience. Rain usually comes with wind and ups the ante on the whole chemistry of sailing. In racing, one heads toward the darkest clouds for the best wind. You are flying straight at the center of the low, so to speak. And that is the essence of the rain lover’s philosophy: low pressure. When it’s raining, you are in low pressure. Everything from the surrounding territory is rushing at you. The nearer to the center of the low, the blacker the sky, the more of that feeling of expectation, of eventfulness, of destiny. It’s a depression but an uplifting depression. Sometimes, the pressure is rushing at you from hundreds or even thousands of miles away — across the country, from high pressure to low pressure as you see on the weather maps. What a feeling! The anticipation of big snowstorms can elicit that feeling too — after all, snow is just frozen rain. It’s all about the pressure. Perhaps we humans are programmed to gravitate toward rain and low pressure as a natural selection trait, water being the staff of life.

So if you feel like singing in the rain, you’re not alone. If it makes you happy, revel while you have it. This winter has been wonderfully wet but not at all snowy. After so many dry years in a row, it’s nice to give the rain knuckleheads like you and me a chance.

Hoorah! Fill those reservoirs to the brim!

Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.

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