Rain

[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Rain seems at first like a simple thing. Just water droplets sprinkling the lawn, getting Whitman wet enough that we need to wipe him off with several towels before he’s allowed again to roam the house. We often know it is coming, and it often is a welcome sight—it gives life to the dead ground—and a soothing sound—recordings of rain help some people sleep.

It belongs to the category of thing we can live with but not control, observe but not explain. Sure we can explain how rain behaves, which is to say we have become experts as observing it; we have observed for millennia the cycles of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Yet, we cannot control it so it does not fall on our houses, we cannot explain why the earth should be that it sustains itself in this way.

Controlling rain would be a great thing for humanity. You don’t have to look far in our culture to see the damage rain has done to us in the past, and the ways we are trying to cope with it now. Look outside at the house on our street—our homes are built with roofs to keep out the rain and the cold. And the experts who make homes make roofs with a certain material and at a certain angle to prepare the house for rain.

If you go to our basement and check the corner near Mom’s workshop, you’ll see something called a sump pump. Many houses have this, and it is to protect basements from flooding. Ever since I have become a homeowner, rain is no longer innocent, but threatening. I know rain can bring great damage to our house. And the truth is, all things considered, there’s not much I can do about it.

As you go through your day, I’m sure you’ll see lots of other things we have added to our daily lives so that we can fear rain less. Windshield wipers, umbrellas stored in closets, slanted streets leading to sewer openings. And all of these things show that we have resolved to our fate, that we cannot control the rain. We can defend against it, but we cannot direct it.

Rain is bigger than us, its power surrounds us, and the thought of its coming holds us captive. And since this is the case, that we are not in charge of the natural forces in the world, then we should be all the more humbled when dealing with the supernatural.