Squall racing

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The first true fall storm has hit us late yesterday evening and continues to blow through today. This is the time year when it becomes clear beyond any shred of doubt that we do in fact live on the coast and are subject to coastal weather. Yesterday morning, one of my running fairies and I enjoyed a beautiful run on a trail running along the water, starting at the beach looking out to the Puget Sound. All along there was a tapestry of fall color and the chill air carried the mixed scent of rain and wood smoke and salt water. Rain started to fall about the same time we began our run and kept us company during the following hour - soft, light, steady rain. There was a sort of rhythm to it - the patter of the drops and the sound of our footfall. It was early enough in the morning for there to be little other sound to distract. Coming back, we ran along the beach trail. Gulls were lolling up and down on gentle waves and all around them and as far as the eye could see, rain drops were joining the sea in lacy, overlapping, concentric circles. Peaceful and almost hypnotic... Fairly damp, but happy, I headed home, feeling pretty "set up" for the rest of the day.
This morning, we woke up to a sea of gray, sky and earth formed but a single layer - all of it absolutely wet. The neighborhood immediately up the hill from us was totally invisible in the mist and fog and rain. It's the kind of weather where you navigate by memory rather then visual cues - gotta keep your internal GPS on... Wind was pelting the windows with rain and whistling through the hedge in our back yard. It is still amazing to me how quickly storm clouds travel across the sky here - the winds round them up out at sea and chase them toward the land and then into the mountains in quick succession. Squalls come through, unload buckets of water, and then leave for parts north and east, leaving dripping quiet behind them and even a few sun breaks, which seem all the more brilliant and precious for the deluge mere minutes before. So, mid-afternoon, when the sun broke out for a little while and the littlest child went down for a nap, I took my chance and went out for a walk. I walked up the longish hill and went along the ridge which offers some nice views both east toward the mountains and west toward the sound. The sun was strong and warm, which was a good thing because the breeze was chilly and at times pretty stiff. About 20 minutes into the walk, I turned down the hill and headed west. Sun had started to falter already and now I could see the next squall sailing in, heavy with moisture. I had a choice to head home by more direct route or stick with my planned one and try to beat the rain home. I did not want to wear my rain jacket and left the house in a sweater and a hat. Not the best of rain gear, but I was having such a good time, I did not wan to cut it short - a race it will be. Not for the first and not for the last time...
To live here, you have to make peace with the rain and learn to love living with the weather - or else, be unhappy most of the year and never go outside, which would be a shame. It also means you learn the finer points of polar fleece, GoreTex and wool blends, as well as own at least one article of clothing by North Face and/or Marmot. (What can I say, it keeps REI in business...) Don't mistake me, this is not my natural habitat - I am much more of a Mediterranean child, sun, warm water, lavender, fresh figs, olives and tomatoes. But, I have lived here now for a fair number of years and my darling husband is the sort who stops functioning when the temperatures go over 75 F. I could move, but I would have to look for another mate and that just seems like way too much of a hassle : ). So, I adapted. I run year round and I actually like to live by the weather and take it as it comes - it makes me feel more in touch with my environment and I think it makes me healthier over all. I have a lot less trouble with allergies than I did in the past and my asthma has been inactive for several years now without any treatment or medication.
So, I kept my eye on the sky as I walked on west along my route. It was getting darker and darker and the birds were flying fast and low getting those few errands done before the rain came back. In the neighborhood you could tell the season had irrevocably changed. Yards have been cleared for the winter, Halloween decorations are out in full force, leaves have been blown everywhere by the wind, lawns look unbelievably green again after the summer 'browning". From the sidewalks, I could smell various wood fires burning, as well as some yummy stews or soups simmering. (Also, this being Seattle, pot, and not the simmering kind, was in evidence. Now, if I can smell it all the way on the sidewalk, is that really being discreet? I ask you...) Cats, huddled on their doorsteps and waiting to be let back inside, gave me odd looks - but, then, they always do... Saw the cutest little German shepherd puppy, all fuzzies and giant feet. The wind started to really pick up and I felt a few drops hit my face - just three more blocks... Walked past the neighborhood French bakery (the baker is our next-door neighbor), filled with folks drinking their coffees and enjoying the buttery goodies. And the pizzeria, just firing up the big wood hearth. More rain drops. The sky looks leaden. Entering the final stretch of our block - will she escape a drenching? Half a block to go... a quarter left... and stepping onto the front steps as the rain starts to pelt down - safe! Until the next time, that is.

PS. I got home to a simmering pot of vegetable soup with tortellini - courtesy of M. I am eyeing a bunch of pears on the counter and thinking thoughts of crisps and cobblers... mmm.
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