It was pouring when I left my house to help a friend set up for an event a few weeks ago. The driving was rough, the visibility limited. The roads had already flooded and my wipers were struggling to keep up. And yet, I had no complaints. It was the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating touchdown in New Jersey, and I felt only gratitude that this wasn’t another brutal hurricane.
I ran between the drops because my umbrella wasn’t under the seat where I usually keep it. My friend hadn’t arrived yet and she had the key — and, I discovered, there was no awning over the door at our meeting spot. When she got there, she took one look at me and sighed from beneath the shelter of her umbrella.
“You’re drenched! Ach, the rain is terrible!”
I pointed out that at least there was no lightning. The winds were tame, too. Besides, this is the local weather we’re blessed with.
“I’m not made of sugar and won’t melt,” I reassured her.
Still, she shrugged in disbelief when I told her that I actually enjoy the rain, that my trees and garden and I are grateful for its arrival year-round. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also confessed that there was a time when I did hold the more popular, contrary opinion. But now, I find it hypnotic, enchanting even, to watch the drops fall or listen to them ping on the roof.
Standing outside that night, those drops transported me back to the early years with my husband — to our courtship, when we’d take late-night walks in the rain and envision our future together. They also conjured up wonderful memories of the pleasure our sons took in puddle-jumping when they were small. The boys could have lingered outside forever on rainy days, and I had to stop myself from rushing them into the dry warmth of the house. I’m glad I had the patience then to let them be, especially now, when I’m nostalgic for those years when they were still interested in worms and puddles and mud.
In an earlier era of my life, though, I was not so forbearing. As a child, when I had important places to explore on my bicycle, the rain signaled a lost opportunity, a downer that kept me indoors. That sentiment stuck with me for too long, well after the original reasons for it were history. For years, I continued to gaze out the window every time it rained, tapping my foot impatiently until the sun came out.
A few external pushes would slowly adjust my mindset, wiping the drops from the lens so I could see through the bleakness of precipitation to its blessed side, to understand just how much in this world is beyond my control. Life experience played a role — a few summers of drought, when flowers I’d lovingly tended had withered from thirst. And at the suggestion of a friend, I listened to a powerful talk on the subject by a rabbi, who asked the audience to consider how many hours of happiness we’d gain in our lifetimes if only we’d embrace, not reject, the rain when it comes.
As my friend pulled up, my eyes caught the sharp angle at which the rain cut through the sky. I saw it for the nourishing life force it can be when it falls like it did that night, and I wanted to soak it in. It’s why I didn’t mind the waiting and could disregard the discomfort of my saturated state.
Jewish tradition teaches us that a day of rain is as great as the day of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. We were so impatient then, we Children of Israel — rushing things, wondering where Moses had gone off to — instead of allowing our story to unfold in its good hour. It was a lesson in biding time, showing us that waiting is a luxury unto itself.
Earlier this evening, I stood on my porch and watched the rain fall in the light of the streetlamp at the top of our cul-de-sac. It came down in torrents, yet it accreted only drop by drop — in the plant pots on the steps and the shallow dips in the concrete. But I’m no longer impatient. That pace was just fine. By the time water began to fill the space between my fingers when I cupped my hands together, I could imagine nothing lovelier.
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Merri Ukraincik, who lives in Edison, N.J., is a regular contributor to this space and to New Jersey Jewish News. Follow her at merriukraincik.com and facebook.com/merri.ukraincik.