An Alaskan in Alabama (continued)

June continued…
Let It Rain: I am accustomed to rain, having lived in England and in Oregon—two places remarkable for their luscious green spaces and the reason for all that gorgeous green: rain, and rain, and lots and lots of rain. Given this, I am not only accustomed to, but almost an expert on, rain. But I was not prepared for Alabama rain. It comes relatively suddenly, and it when it arrives it does so with a force and volume that I’ve never seen before. And, of course, there is the thunder and lightning, two elements I’ve rarely, if ever, experienced in either England or Oregon. The thunder, like a massive series of timpani all being struck at once, makes me start, and the lighting sears my sight, a giant flashbulb in the darkness of the sky. Both make me very nervous.
Today, we had a spectacular storm. When I woke this morning, it was a beautiful clear day; the sun beat down with high-eighties heat as I left the house, so much so that I opened my umbrella to shield my skin from its glare. As I listened to the radio, I heard the newscaster report a 50 percent chance of rain, but no further information. Later, I heard a news report of flooding in some cities some distance from my town, but no mention of anything here. However, while I was working in the office late in the afternoon, I saw that the small amount of light that reach my basement office had darkened. I went on an errand and felt a few spots of rain hitting my warm skin, but nothing more. I returned to the office and then, half an hour later, I looked up from my computer and saw how dark the room had become, and I heard the rain, just beginning to fall.

It was time to go home, so I gathered my belongings, reached for my umbrella, and climbed the stairs. As I neared the closest door, I could hear the sound of rain: not a gentle fall, but the sound of water beating down on the building, the street, and the earth with tremendous force. I peeked through the door’s glass and saw the sheets of rain blowing along the abandoned street. I’ll wait it out, I thought, this could just be a sudden shower. I wait, and wait, then I climbed the stairs to the next level for another view of the storm, and I waited a few counts more. It doesn’t stop. My stomach grumbles: it’s time to go, even if the weather doesn’t say so.

I opened the door with my foot as I struggled to raise my umbrella, though I could already tell that amidst the tempest my tiny, pretty umbrella would be as useless as a dolly’s parasol. Indeed, it made little difference: in seconds, my skirt clung to my legs and my hair stuck to my cheeks. In those minutes during which I’d waited, the rain had risen inches high on the streets. I waded to a sidewalk, which gave me a bit more protection from the flowing water, but not much. The rain blew against my body, getting into my eyes so that I was half-blind as I stumbled on, trying to hold my backpack to my chest to protect the few precious items inside. The road, the parking lot, everything was flooded: a series of small streams flowing into other streams, an endless wash of water. I wade through the wet, grateful I’m wearing water-ready sandals, though I wish for my father’s waders, which go up over the knees: that would be great protection against the water, full of who knows what, which surges against my bare skin.

Loose red earth is carried away in the water, creating channels of red within the streams as the force of the water erodes the top layers of soil. As I pass near a construction site with its parking lot of dusty white gravel, I see milky white rivers, full of gravel dust, converging with red rivers full of the Alabama soil, the red and white mingling. I push forward, trying to avoid the highest flows of water as I head for home. As I walk into the neighborhood, water streams down driveways and cascades down stairs; I dodge the streams as best I can, but I can’t help wading through water more than three inches high in places as the water streams into the streets, down toward the cavernous drains. As I cross the street to my building, the water is so strong it almost knocks me off my feet. I arrive at my front door absolutely wet through, leaving huge puddles everywhere. The cats, greeting me at the door, turn tail and retreat from dripping me. Then I strip off layer after layer of sodden mass, wash my legs and feet with fervent hopes that nothing nasty will come of my inundation, then pull on blissfully dry clothes and have a cup of tea while, outside, the storm rages on: now this is rain.


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