I walked in the rain this evening. It reminded me of Scotland: a bracing cold, but invigorating, my memory choosing to omit the reality of Scottish rain, pissing relentlessly down, soaking you through when walks in the rain weren’t for pleasure, but a miserable necessity.
I grew up in the rain. I wonder now why the Scots language doesn’t have five hundred words for rain, for the types of it, the size of the drops, the density of them in the air, the amount of wind involved, the stages of getting soaked to the skin, from the first wetness upon your jacket, to that feeling of your coat getting heavier with water, to the telltale touch of cold saturated fabric upon your shoulder that tells you you’re in for a miserable time, with three miles to go until home. There should be Scots words for after-rain: the dream of tea, of soup by a hearth, the peeling off of sodden trousers that pulled on your skin, tightening as you walked. Words for the strange way you can get soaked on one side when the wind throws buckets in one direction, and you realize one leg is cold, and the other still has a not exactly dry covering, but one that feels dry in comparison. And what about a word for the rain that doesn’t feel like rain anymore, when you’ve survived a downpour, the skies have lifted, but, it being Scotland, a little rain persists, just because, but it feels like nothing after what went before? What about words for the way your shoes get waterlogged, the double wet of rain falling, then splashing up off the pavement to soak your feet, ankles, and the clothes that cover them first? Why isn’t there a word for that? And let’s not get started on the ways the rain changes the substance of the ground we walk upon, from yielding to treacherous, from bright green and alive to brown sludge that wants to send you slithering onto your backside if you’re unwary, to be coated in a new and more miserable wetness.
I loved the rain. When I had hair I liked the way rain soaked through it – there would be a word for when your scalp gets wet – and then rainwater gathered to run and drip from the curls around my face, those that weren’t plastered to it already. There should be words there too, for the first feeling of rain upon your dry cheek to the chill slick of a fully coated face, a rain-mask as it were, to slide off and run down your neck to worm its way past any scarf, if you had one, to dampen your shirt. The shirt soaked through, wet at top and bottom with a strange dry band just above the waist, that should have a name. The dreich day shirt. But dreich doesn’t always mean rain, just gloomy – so in Scotland that means mostly rain.
Anyway. Today, in Colorado, where the sun shines 300 days a year, I went out walking in the rain. A luxury now, a chance to be nostalgic, perhaps a little maudlin, to feel the wet element upon me, and remember the times I had no choice but to face much worse conditions, and be glad now I don’t have to. I drink my tea by this electronic hearth, and bid you a fair evening.