Someone left my heart out in the rain


As my mother’s liver failed her and she floated away from us (was it on the river of our tears?), the long drought broke in California. While mama died in the living room, outside the rain sluiced down soaking ground that only a few months before had cracked into geometric flakes as it shrank away from itself. So much rain fell that the ground swelled back into itself as particles of soil—clay, silt, loam, and spongy organic matter—soaked up moisture and became a semi-solid mud. Christmas was wet; we couldn’t go outside, even if we had wanted to.

Or did we go out? I can’t remember. It seems like perhaps we did. Did we walk out in the Baylands?  It seems unlikely that we would have left her. But it had been a family habit for a long time, to walk by the Bay on holidays, even in rough weather. Did we go on Christmas day? My mind is a blank; I’m losing the last days my mother was alive. My brain is darkening the jangling nightmare of the hospital, blurring the memory of slow, frightening days at home as we waited for her to go. I’m not altogether ready for that amnesia.


Since my mother left, rain has fallen every week, sometimes every day. The big creeks and rivers in the flats are above flood stage; rills of silver water lace through the pastures in the foothills, and as I drive through the mountains, I surge through sheets of water that flow across the highway. Waterfalls cut the canyon walls and bring rock and dirt tumbling across both lanes.

I approve of this rainy weather. California needs the water; during the last few summers we’ve gone from being the Golden State to being the Slightly-Gray State, the tawny grasses that grow across the state charcoaled by heat and dryness. We need the rain. And I admit, it suits my mood. Grievous weather.

The rain does keep me inside, which I don’t like. I sit at the dining table and look out through the branches of the bull pine, admiring the water that drips down the grooves in the needles and forms chains of wet round drops along the slender green lines. Clouds often blow across the mountain, and the view through the tree shifts and fades into white so that I can’t see the grove of tall ponderosas at the base of the little valley we overlook. Then the wind picks up and the clouds evaporate and I watch the trees tilt from the wind. They are so tall that I worry about them falling, but the long line of them so far has held.

As have I, surprisingly. When my mother first passed, it seemed like a black wind ripped me off my pins, weakened my fastenings to the earth. Not being as strong as a ponderosa, I feel to the ground quite often, a rubbly pile of sobs. But I got back up. I had to.

Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 6 a.m. Canada was just a low dark stretch across the water.

Rain is falling tonight as I write this, a heavy warm rain that’s melting the snow in the high country and tickling the tree frogs in the valley so that they sing songs of lust and love every night. The rain softens the sharp edges of my hurt.

Saturday we are supposed to have sun. I’m a little worried about what that might do to my equilibrium; I’ve got a shakey balance going on between how much I grieve and how much rain is falling. I’m afraid sunny skies might tip the balance. Fortunately, there is more rain in the forecast.


Rain in the desert

Death Valley gets about 2 inches of rain a year. Just my luck, they got a fair percentage of that 2 inches on Friday night with a soft rain that began about 8 pm and lasted until the next morning.

From my first trip there, I remember the skies being a deep but empty blue. On Friday, with the storm front blowing through, the skies were full, competing with the mountains to show the most spectacular scenery. Storms in the desert are otherworldly. Water makes the desert a different place, with dampness on the wind, the smell of creosote and wet earth, and the sound of rain like an unexpected but most welcome visitor.

DeathValleyClouds1The morning after the rain, clouds hugged the peaks around us.


They slid right down to the valley floor, wrapping the smaller hills in damp blankets.


Great banks of moisture left reluctantly in the morning sun.

DeathValleyClouds3And climbed high into the desert air.

DeathValleyClouds4Eventually the valley pushed them back, and went on with its dry manner.

DeathValleySandStormAnd then, in another change of desert heart, a sandstorm clouded the valley floor and made the dunes shimmer and glint like Antarctic ice.


Falling water

This is not really California. It's New York state, where it rained a good chunk of time while we were there last fall. I didn't mind; rain was a novelty for me.

It seems that today marks the day that our long stretch of rainy weather has ended. If the golden state of Calfornia is true to form, the sky will be blue (or yellow with smog) until November or December.  This kind of weather makes a lot of folks happy.

But not me. Not so much. I find the cloudless blue skies, day after day, get to be monotonous. Boring. They depress me as much as endless gray days. I like the weather to change. It reminds me there is a roof of a sky overhead, and not just endless blue space.

This hills are brilliant green right now, almost blindingly green. But they won’t be for long. Already the prediction is for 70 degrees by the end of the week. And hot weather won’t be far behind. That will dry up our hills so that they look like brown furry animals by June. By September they’ll be nearly gray, with dark clumps where the live oaks grow.

Artist on vacation

Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 6 a.m. Canada was just a low dark stretch across the water.
Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 6 a.m. Canada was just a low dark stretch across the water.

Californians wanted to know: Why are you going to Port Townsend in March? Isn’t it raining enough for you here?

We left California in a rainstorm (rare for California), and arrived in Port Townsend in a rainstorm. I don’t mind the rain. After having lived under the grimly sunny skies of California for the last decade, it’s nice to once again see a sky with some kind of personality.

And boy, the sky showed her colors the first day we were here. Big clouds stretched from horizon to horizon. They poured rain, hail, even a bit of snow, and I painted and painted all morning, trying to capture the light, the clouds, and their movement over the water. I’m not used to painting skies. In California I rarely look at the boring blue; if I lived here, I think I would only paint skies.

We’ve got a great hotel room; it’s a carriage house suite actually. Painting in front of the picture window is like plein air painting, only warmer and with a cup of tea.

Watercolor done on Strathmore postcard.
Watercolor done on Strathmore postcard.

Later in the morning, the clouds broke up a little. But Canada was still a long, low spit of land across the Strait. That evening the sky cleared and we realized that the clouds had been hiding mountains—ranks of huge, gleaming, snow covered mountains.