This past week in Bellingham has been gorgeous: 80-degree weather, cloudless, blue skies–our ever-green grass finally succumbed to the lack of moisture and died, creating lovely, golden fields of brittle and parched lawn. The prickly feel of a constant sunburn (careless with the sunscreen, I am), and the sweat in the small of my back remind me that, at last, summer is here.
But this morning, I woke up to cloudy, gray skies and the definate threat of rain. The air sneaking in under my cracked window had turned overnight, and instead of the hot, sticky wind that I’d fallen asleep with, it was fresh, damp, indicative of fall. The cool air of a fever breaking.
Summer could be a single week long, and I wouldn’t mind. Yes, it’s a nice season, and I’m a big fan of the ripe berries, the afternoons in the backyard with water bottle, notebook and novel, but every single year, no matter what sort of summer we’ve had, that first rain–the one that speaks of fall–always sends me gleefully to my dresser to pack up the tank tops and sandals. Bring forth the sweaters and stocking caps!
Ever heard of that weather-dependent depression, where people get all bummed out in the fall and winter from lack of sunshine? I have the exact opposite: a hot, rain-less summer pitches me headfirst into a mid-August slump, and it’ll last until that first rain comes around–and I am not the only one here who suffers when the rain stays away too long.
The way people were grinning this morning, you’d think we lived in the desert, and this rain was the monsoon we’d waited so eagerly for all season, keeping our children back from the brink of death with the last drops in our canteens–rather than the first fine mist of 90 days’ straight rain. It’s as if our collective memory has forgotten that this morning’s clouds means yesterday’s sunlight is gone now, for three, maybe four months.
At the grocery store, the cashier helpfully volunteered to push my empty cart back out to the front of the store–not to save me the effort, but because he wanted to sneak outside and smell the rain.
That’s right–smell the rain. For as much as I talk about, you know, reclaiming the land and preserving it, blah blah blah, I have to admit that my single, favorite smell (surpassing even coffee beans, unlit pipe tobacco, beeswax and satsuma oranges) is the smell of rain on dry cement. It’s enough to make me stop and stand still, just smelling the wet pavement. Not even wet earth smells that good, in my book.
And now, any second, the leaves will begin to change, the wind will pick up, and driving down Holly St. at night will be my favorite stretch of town again–something about the rain-blurred traffic lights, the trees lining the streets, turning gold and red, the white rope lights that shops put up in the windows (or leave up all year, but turn on only after October).
Farewell to the dirty feet of summer, and to whatever tan I managed to muster via sunburn; farewell to the ten-o’clock sunsets and the busy downtown streets. Let the windows of the buses turn silver with condensation, let breath come in bursts of gray steam; let cheeks turn pink, let me dig out my mittens and walk to work, smiling, in the wet and the cold–because this shimmering mist is what, above all things, reminds me that Bellingham is my home.