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Local writer of the column 'Notes From Home'

I was out in the rain Monday morning, looking for a lost cat. He disappeared three weeks ago, but I keep hoping that maybe he’s still just trying to get home. No luck. Turning back toward the house a little damp, it seemed fitting, somehow, that it was raining.

I have always loved the rain, although my feelings of kindness toward it have begun to dampen as my limitations have grown. My mother, however, has always held a grudge against the rain, as if it were out to get her. As she winds down her days on this earth, each cloud, each raindrop becomes a foe, an obstruction. Living just north of the Bay Area, where this winter’s atmospheric rivers have spent some time, her spirits have been sorely tried.

“If one more person says to me ‘Oh, but we need it,’ I’ll scream,” she has threatened for years, even in years when we needed it terribly. I used to think that if she knew where her water comes from, i.e., which reservoir or aquifer, her antipathy might change to appreciation. But my descriptions of the hydrologic cycle and water project developments have done nothing to change her tune.

It’s not as if she grew up with a silver faucet, either, i.e., not having to think about where her water comes from. She remembers the cup of water kept by the handle of the pump to prime it if necessary. She remembers when they got running water in the kitchen (cold only, with water heated on the stove for washing clothes and dishes as well as bathing.) This was in the late 1920s, in a small house on the edge of Centralia, Washington, one of three built for family by her more-well-to-do uncle. They could not afford the sewer hookup fee, and her fears of going outside at night to use the outhouse are still remembered.

It could really rain in Centralia, too, as I remember, though not as fiercely as the community where I grew up sixty miles north, a point of land lapped on three sides by Puget Sound. Centralia is roughly 30 miles south of Puget Sound’s southernmost bay, protected by coastal hills that soak up some of the rain. She lived both places, of course, so it’s fair to say that until we moved to Maui in 1967, the first 40 years of her life were lived under clouds.

But now I remember two forays she made away from ever-present rain before she married. One was to the high desert of eastern Washington, the small town of Ephrata bolstered by construction of Grand Coulee Dam; the other was to San Jose during the war, seeking work. In both places she would have had her first experiences of living without constant rain, a contrast that must have felt freeing. That same contrast that had lured her grandfather to the Imperial Valley to homestead in the early 1900s. It lured her father there as well, but after losing a child to “desert fever,” he returned to wet Washington where he shoveled coal the rest of his life, dying of emphysema in his late 70s. Maybe my mother’s hatred of rain is tied up in the misery of some of her family’s story.

I bring this up because what we are facing meteorologically—higher peaks of flood and drought, both more common and more extreme—may require of us some real-time emotional adjustments as well as physical. We may need to recognize rain as threatening for some people, especially those whose homes are in flood zones and those with no roofs over their heads, and try to extend ourselves toward them in some way. We may need to think before we open our mouths and utter “Oh, but we need it.”

“It’s that terrible shade of gray today,” my mother said late last week, her voice edgy as if looking for a knife. No way to attack it, she hunkers down to keep from attacking herself, I fear. Over the phone I offer ideas for coping that help temporarily. At night we pray for blue skies tomorrow. And as she approaches her finish line, I just pray that sunshine will see her across it.

Trudy Wischemann is a rainwalker who writes. You can send her your climate concerns c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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