Rain man

Why I can’t get too much of the wet stuff

Rain makes some people feel like kids again.

Rain makes some people feel like kids again.

Photo By David Robert

Stumbling out of bed on a Sunday morning, I cast aside the vertical blinds and look outside. My heart skips a beat. As I see the rain fall steadily from the sky, my body begins to feel energized. I quickly throw on some clothes, grab a jacket and the dog’s leash, and I am out the door. My dog, initially thrilled by the prospect of a walk, quickly becomes disillusioned by the rain and cold winter winds. Obviously, I’ll be going solo on this walk.

Going on lonely walks in the rain is something I’ve grown accustomed to. When it rains, trails that on a dry day carry the weight of several hikers have to bear only my weight. I stare up at the gray sky as the rain cascades down my face, becoming trapped in my beard and then slipping through and settling on the increasingly wet neckline of my shirt. A youthful exuberance takes over as I slosh my way through puddles and throw sticks into swelling creeks. I glance around. No one notices this 26-year-old acting like he’s 6.

I can’t say exactly when this love affair with rain began. Growing up in Northern California certainly had something to do with it. Torrential rains would sweep through the small North Bay towns where I lived. Creeks that produced no more than a trickle through the dry summer months would explode to full river status. Ditches that were filled with leaves and eucalyptus pods became turbulent canals for stick boats to travel on.

Something about the rain excited me, charged me, as it still does today. The more powerful a storm, the better. But I would also enjoy a slow, lazy drizzle lightly falling to the earth.

My parents never discouraged me from playing in the rain. The words I overheard my friends’ parents saying rarely escaped my parents’ lips. Phrases like “you’ll catch pneumonia and die” and “you’ll ruin your clothes” would have fallen on deaf ears anyway. I didn’t care about pneumonia or my clothes.

My love of rain didn’t dwindle at all in my teen years, and it wasn’t because I was a morose adolescent who wore all black and pale makeup. The rain actually cheered me up. I would show up to class after lunch dripping wet and full of glee.

After school, I would head out to Bodega Head, a half-hour’s drive from my high school in Santa Rosa. There, bands of rain assaulted the ocean, while the ocean took out its frustrations on the rocky beaches that make up the Sonoma coastline. From my perch high above the fray, I pushed my back against the rocky overhang so the pelting rain wouldn’t obscure my vision. I watched the storm transfix the landscape until the shrouded sky turned pitch black, leaving me with nothing left to see and only the sensation of cold drops prodding at my skin.

When I moved to Reno, I didn’t realize how much I would miss the rain. Reno gets about 80 percent of the possible sunlight each year.

That means plenty of outdoor activities in every season, since most people prefer their days to be filled with sun.

But all that sun doesn’t work for me. I think I must have some sort of reverse seasonal affective disorder. Ordinarily the disorder, apparently caused by a lack of sunlight, causes depression during the winter months. For me, only the hope of an afternoon thunderstorm keeps me going through sunny, 90-degree days.

The winter of 1998, the first after I moved to Reno at the end of 1997, was difficult to get through. Snow doesn’t excite my senses like rain does, unless it is in large amounts. Only one snowstorm since I moved here has been able to do that, with almost a foot gathering in some areas of town in the early part of 1998. What I assumed to be normal, I have come to find out is an aberration. If there are six inches on the ground after a decent snowfall, I consider myself lucky.

Maybe I just picked the wrong time to move to Reno. The winter prior had the New Year’s Day flood, one of the largest on record in the area. Of course, that same winter, two floods within a month attacked the North Bay, sending cities scrambling to find sandbags and me gladly scrambling to

find a camera to record the events for my junior college newspaper.

Since I moved to Reno, the 7.5 inches of annual precipitation has dwindled to a bit more than 4 inches in 2001. Accustomed to 35 to 40 inches of rain a year—and often thinking that wasn’t enough—I began to realize that this arid, high-desert climate wasn’t doing it for me.

Funny as it might sound, rainfall totals will forever dictate where I live. When talking to my fiancée about whether to move to Texas, one of the first things I did was check the annual rainfall: 33.4 inches for Austin, 30.97 inches for San Antonio. Austin it is, then. The city weighs in with a titillating 84.3 days of rain per year and only two months above 70 percent of possible sunshine. If either of us had family in the Portland or Seattle area, I would have

angled for a move to the Northwest, where rainfall totals regularly climb to the 40- to 50-inch mark.

But as I prepare to leave, Reno seems to be trying to convince me to hang around. December was the 25th wettest month on record, with 1.8 inches of precipitation. People started talking about the New Year’s Day flood. The mountains are covered with snow. Clouds seemingly break through the Sierra Nevada rain shelter with ease.

But I know better. The cover of the Jan. 3 Reno Gazette-Journal betrayed the climate’s attempts to keep me here, showing a picture of a man climbing out of a truck stranded in several feet of water and onto the horse of his rescuer. The photo was taken in my old hometown of Santa Rosa.

I know you’re out there, rain. And I will find you again.