The First Rain on the Island
After three and a half weeks on the island it finally rains. The weather app on our phones forecasted rain every weekend we’ve been here. We expect rain at least three times a week. For three weeks there is nothing (read: lots of sunshine) even as dark clouds slide across the sky.
When it finally does rain its Natalie’s birthday and we’re at work. Outside of the window are grey skies, dark, fast moving clouds. Even as it pours there are still pockets of bright blue.
“When it rains, it can rain on just one part of the island and nowhere else,” Vlad tells me. Vlad and I were classmates back at Bentley University and we interned together. When his visa stuff didn’t work out in Boston, he decided to go for the island life. He’s been here a few weeks longer than we have. He’s got island cred.
What he says about the rain is true though, even on the scale of an office block.
At about 230 it pours again. Clouds, thick and black everywhere. A distant pounding noise on the roof above. It’s been raining on and off for most of the day, so I walk downstairs and sit on the patio benches at the front of the building to enjoy the rain. I watch Mr. Derrick pull the company van under the porch and unload Rubbermaid storage totes.
I don’t understand the rain here. It’s hot, heavy like a wet towel. Suffocating (…And it gets everywhere. I totally heard Anakin Skywalker’s whiny sand rant in my head there. Sorry folks). On one side of the porch it’s a downpour. Huge raindrops splashing on the brick roads as Mr. Derrick and his assistant move back and forth from the van. On all sides of the porch it’s a torrent of water. But just beyond the office block, the sun is shining—blue skies and happiness.
Endless sunshine is not happiness to me. I need rain to survive. I can almost
tell how happy I will be in a place based on the amount of rain it receives in a year. The more sunshine there is over an extended period, the more irritable I get.
I’m no cactus.
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada—a place as well known for its rain as it is for its beauty. In fact, this past year Vancouver had its wettest October and November in years. The rain of my childhood there is a fine mist. Drizzling is a constant companion, very rarely a torrential downpour. The days are cold and damp—even in the summer—the moss and lichen slick underfoot. In my memories are windbreakers to keep out the rain at all times of the year, the ruined skeletons of umbrellas wrecked by wind and repeated use (also wrecked from living in my backpack).
On homesick days in college in Idaho I took long walks in the October rain, relishing the cool water on my face, music in my headphones from my discman in my pocket (yes back when iPods were still new…we are old now). I loved the cool jazz of the summer rains in Idaho, the magic of long tendrils hanging from clouds on the horizon. Wet hair and watching a thunderstorm roll across Rexburg and into the horizon from the hill of the temple. One late stormy summer night, I popped the trunk of my car, played some breaking music and literally danced in the street as it poured. Rocks and asphalt stung my hands. I was drenched and happy.
We lived close to a saltwater marsh in Boston and the smell of rain mixed with saltwater reminded me of those wet days at home. The Northeast was home to summer deluges, flash flood warnings on my phone, temperamental Nor’easters and cold, cold rain. Our only trip to Cape Cod had a total of six hours of sunshine, the emptiness and awe of an empty beach in the rain. Acadia national park is forever locked in my memories as a trip through the trees dripping with water, grey skies over the Atlantic, and wondering why we thought we wouldn’t need a rain jacket.
The rain is a happy place, even as Natalie gives me a look like I’m crazy. Maybe I am. I’m usually grinning when it rains. It’s not a Lee family vacation until it rains (which coincidentally enough is also when it’s Natalie’s shift to drive. I don’t make the rain schedule).
Despite how everyone back home says we’re on vacation, this is how I know now that we’re not. It’s not raining. This is our new life.
The locals tell me that we’ll get a rainy season in the summer. I’m looking forward to it.
When we were still in Boston we thought we would make a trip to New York and watch a Broadway show or two for Natalie’s birthday. Those plans changed when we decided to move down here. I guess we could have still made it back there, but it would have been a little weird to get here, work for a few weeks, then go on vacation.
In Boston, it still would have been difficult to go on a trip for Natalie’s birthday since one of the tax deadlines falls near her birthday.
Instead we celebrate by first visiting a consignment store looking for a Christmas tree. The store is basically a small warehouse in an industrial space, crammed with antiques and furniture from years and years of island life. Huge oak cabinets, deeply polished wood, and glass doors. Mixed in are curiosities like a lamp made of Popsicle sticks.
We only find one Christmas tree in the place. Natalie points to the tree and asks if its for sale. The Filipino owner of the place laughs sheepishly and tells us he bought it.
“Come back on Saturday. We are having a Christmas sale. We might have some trees then,” he says. His mustache reminds me of my uncle.
We watch the sunset on Seven Mile Beach. It rains on us a little, but the clouds and the rain make the sunset all the more glorious. Later we order two large pizzas from Pizza Hut and watch White Christmas.
It’s hard to tell when the Christmas season begins when there is no cold weather or Thanksgiving to shut things down and signal the beginning of madness. But I guess Christmas starts with Bing Crosby.