Withholding the rain

There was a time when I would have told you that I knew it wasn’t going to rain today. I would have told you, never mind the forecast, it won’t rain. I would have then waited for it to rain, or not, hoping it would rain because I love the rain and hoping it would not so that it would confirm my privileged insight into such things. As I got older I lost faith in my insight, but I believed that if, whenever rain was forecast, I convinced myself that it wouldn’t rain, maybe it would rain. What I had learned by this point in my life, around adolescence, is that suppressing my desires increases the likelihood of fulfilling them. Although the way I looked at it then was closer to this: whatever I don’t want to happen will happen and whatever I want will never happen solely because I want it. Evidence to the contrary I ignored. I was busy assembling my description of the world. Contraindications were not helpful.

Today is my birthday. A few days ago I began to check my weather app to see what the forecast was for today. Even yesterday there was the little cloud icon with the dashed, slanting lines below: Rain. Had I bothered to look further I would probably have learned that there was only a 30% chance of rain, which means meteorologists were betting against it. However this is drought-stricken California. Not only is a 30% chance of rain a probability at least 10x greater then normal, it’s an excuse for those who supply our media to make predictions that, even if they are wrong, will get our attention and drive ad sales. The fact remain, they don’t know. Just like I don’t know. At the same time, now that I’m older—old enough to say without melodrama that I’m “old”—, I know that just because it isn’t raining on my birthday when it was forecast to do so, doesn’t mean the universe is punishing me anymore than it would be rewarding me if it did rain.

Still, if it rains today, even a little, I will be grateful because I love the rain and I don’t love my birthdays so much anymore and if it rains it will be hard to suppress feeling it is a gift, an intimate acknowledgement that my love even for the rain is somewhere received and somehow consequential enough to warrant a response.

Should I thank God for this, this gift of rain, if it comes? I can’t go wrong doing so. If I don’t express my gratitude then I don’t receive what’s given as gift. And if it doesn’t rain, as seems likely—the air is breezeless, the day mostly gone, the clouds thin and unmoving—should I express my disappointment to God? Should go so far as to resent God for withholding from me what would be so like a mercy were I to receive it? No, I will not sulk. But I will be disappointed. I will not have my acknowledgement. I will have to look elsewhere. And wait.

And the moments remaining are fewer every day. Unless I live to be 112, my life is well more than half over. Given how much more rapidly time passes as I age, the time remaining to me is not much more than the summers used to seem when I was eight. There were marvelous thunderstorms in those days in north Texas where I grew up, ranks of cumulonimbus, grey-black anvils with lightning snapping between, marching down the plains. We watched and waited, minutes it seemed, for the thunder to reach us. Shorter and shorter came the intervals. In those days everything was gift. Nothing was withheld.

2 thoughts on “Withholding the rain”

  1. There are certain methods one can employ to increase the probability of rain. Specifically, placing of cushions on lawn furniture increases rain probability by between 8 and 11 percentage points; washing one’s vehicle increases rain probability by no less than 15 percent. When a farmer has finished mowing his field of alfalfa, he has caused rain probability to rise a full 25 percent.


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