Rain was predicted this past 4th of July. The midsummer celebrations always include barbecues, parades, and municipal fairs—all outdoor activities. There are simply no traditional indoor Independence Day activities. There was a good chance that parades would be rained out, that they wouldn’t be able to have the fireworks in Memorial Field. It put a damper on everyone’s celebrations, and there were lamentations far and wide about the unfairness of it all. After all, July is so typically hot and dry, and the weather predictions for the following week were for skyrocketing temperatures and dry, dry, dry. Why should it rain on the 4th?
I rarely complain about a rainy day, even on a holiday. Rain is special no matter when it comes. I mean, water out of the sky? How does that happen? One of the most ancient of Sumerian myths has the two sons of the sky god arguing: one is the deified Summer and one is the deified Winter, and they dispute about who is more important for the growth of crops. Their father steps in to settle the argument: Winter is more important, because without his rains there would be no crops.
But more than that, a rainy day always feels special. A long time ago I was married to a woman named Carolyn. She used to love when it rained, and we would take long walks beneath a large umbrella. This is the right attitude; there is something intimate and romantic about sharing that little shelter, the patter of raindrops on it, the splash of water at your feet, that encourages conversation and closeness.
We once attended Fair St. Louis, the biggest local fair, and one of the best 4th of July parties in the country, on a rainy day. I thought cancelling was the best idea, but she would have none of that. We went to the fair and it was very nice. The temperatures were cooler than normal for July, and the weather kept the crowds small. It was easy to get a beer and a hot dog, to get up close to hear featured musicians, and to find a good seat for the fireworks, even though we got rained on a few times. Our determination was rewarded when the rain held off in the evening and the fireworks went on as usual, everyone oohing and aahing from their soggy blankets on the ground.
Early in the predawn morning I am awakened by the sound of rain. It was a warm night and the window is open and I can hear the rain begin to drop on leaves and on the ground. I know it is falling on the sill and soon I will have to rouse myself and close the window. But I linger against that duty, feeling calm and assured within the sound of the rain. This will be a good morning, cooler and greener, and I hope the rain is still falling when I get out in it.
So many blues songs and popular tunes evoke rainy days as a symbol of sadness, loneliness, and despair. I know, it’s an easy contrast with a sunny day, which is a symbol for happiness and things going well in life. Still, I don’t get it. Everyone complains about rain on a holiday, but to me, rain is always a holiday, a little break within itself, a little remembrance of the cycles of nature and how they can interrupt the artificial lives we’ve assigned ourselves.