leaf-on-stony-ground-with droplets of rain

Photo by Rich Clark

Remember how that classic Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain dance ends? With a cop staring at Kelly, clearly thinking, “This guy is nuts. Or at the very least disturbing the peace,” and Kelly sheepishly ending his song and obediently putting his umbrella into the full-upright-and-locked position.

Some of us love rain.

We are not like the others.

We even have a label—pluviophiles, lovers of rain. The great poet Langston Hughes was obviously one of us:  Let the rain kiss you.  “Oh, yes,” I murmur as I breathe in the soft, damp air, exulting as the autumn clouds settle around Seattle. I love this soft rain, and many of my friends and neighbors do, too. We welcome the rainy season.

Bear in mind that I’m living in Seattle, where jeans and a black fleece are considered formal wear. (Don’t believe me? See the Seattle Tuxedo entry in the Urban Dictionary.) And a “Seattle rain bonnet” is damp, frizzy hair. (Don’t go looking. I made that up.) And I just signed up for Rainy Camp, a 28-year-old event held by the Seattle Folklore Society the last weekend in January, when mainstream Americans are all gorging on carbs and grease and hyperventilating about the Super Bowl. The people who attend Rainy Camp have the minority view that it’s so much fun to make your own music that it’s worth sleeping in a bunk bed for a weekend. We love our rain.

Poet Hughes sort of loses me, though, with his second line. Let the rain beat upon your head.

No, thanks.

The romance of being out in the rain evaporates for me very quickly in one of the pounding frog-stranglers I remember from my youth in Memphis, or the boiling thunderstorms of my adult years around Washington, DC.

There are people who love thunderstorms.

They also are not like the others.

They’re called ceraunophiles, and if you want to drop that word into your next conversation, one pronunciation sounds faintly British, and another truly Amurrican.  I am married to a ceraunophile, and I privately think that such people are (a) a half-bubble off plumb, and (2) lovers of heavy metal music, which to my mind is much the same thing.

Pluviophiles don’t have much science to back us up.

Yes, there’s plenty written on how the weather affects people’s moods.  When I took a quick look at PsychNet, a service provided by the American Psychological Association, the first article that came up was “Come rain or come shine: Individual differences in how weather affects mood.”  They divided people into categories—and pay close attention now:

·         Summer Lovers (better mood with warmer and sunnier weather)

·         Unaffected (weak associations between weather and mood),

·          Summer Haters (worse mood with warmer and sunnier weather), and

·         Rain Haters (particularly bad mood on rainy days)

Please notice—there isn’t even a category for Rain Lovers. So I was forced to turn to more popular psychology, which will tell you:

·         7 Reasons Why People Who Enjoy the Rain are Happier

·         Why Some People Love Rainy Weather, including, apparently, “Body image problems,” and “Not feeling they are missing out on anything.” Not exactly pluviophile propaganda.

·         There is the old popular wisdom: “A day like this is only good for two things, and I never did care for fishin’.”

·         Why Does Rain Make Some People Happy? Posted on the Penn State web site, perhaps as just a student’s thoughts during a 2016 course.  And here’s the conclusion: “While weather can often get in our way, it helps us to remember the importance of shelter and take our minds off of stressful situations. Water is something that will forever be connected to human beings in ways we can never fully understand.”

Rain as Inconvenience

That’s our modern urban view. That rain is an inconvenience. That all it does is slow our traffic, wet our feet, and ruin our picnics.  Never mind that our ancestors sang pleading songs for rain, invented ceremonies to try to make it happen, or that farmers keep an anxious weather eye on the skies almost year round.

We can’t understand how water is connected to human beings? How about the fact that it keeps us alive, nourishes everything we eat, and comprises most of our body weight?

How can we not feel grateful for fresh water, a free gift falling out of the sky, vital nourishment for so many things we love, builder of rivers, lakes, oceans.

Walking in the rain brings peace to the mind that’s running in a hamster wheel. Some runners love the rain, saying a run in the rain makes them feel even better than their usual run.

The sound of rain is soothing, whether you’re indoors or out.

And the smell is divine. Even the name for that smell, petrichor, is a combination of the Greek for stone and ichor, the golden blood of the gods, the secret of their immortality.

I think I’ll go for a walk. It’s starting to rain.

For Further Reading

Langston Hughes apparently really did love the rain. Not only did he write the gem I quoted, “April Rain Song,” but also the lovely “In Time of Silver Rain.”