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first person

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Illustration by Mary Kirkpatrick

I am an unabashed pluviophile.

This means that I love the rain and everything about it. There is no exaggeration here: I love the rain, much more than most people. Dark dramatic skies, wind, clouds, lightning, thunder, precipitation … it all speaks to me. This is my happy place.

If you have ever seen children run to a window to watch the first snowfall, that is me every time I see rain. Pure unbridled joy. If fortune favours me, Zeus and Tempestas will co-ordinate their talents and spoil me with a display of thunder and lightning and I will be delighted.

I’m not shy about divulging this. The usual reaction is one of dismay, incomprehension and sometimes shock. I get it. This isn’t for everyone.

I’ve never met someone else like me. Given that there is a word for my ilk there must be others, although we seem to exist alone, unrecognized, unheralded. People say that they do enjoy a nice rainfall and I understand that, but I know that we are not talking about the same thing.

The Dutch know a thing or two about rain. In their language there is the verb uitwaaien, that means “to get some fresh air.” It is the act of jogging or walking in the wind, especially in the winter, to feel invigorated. It relieves stress and boosts one’s general health. It does not, however, include the notion of enjoying the rain. Several Dutch linguists have told me it doesn’t. In my opinion, this is a shortcoming of the Dutch language.

In Inuktitut, there are so many terms available to describe snow and ice. The Germans have Schadenfreude to describe the pleasure one derives from another person’s misfortune. Arabic has ya’aburnee for one’s hope to die before another person to avoid the difficulty of living without them. Surely, then, we can find a verb for the pleasure derived from a rainy, dull, grey day.

The soft pitter-patter of raindrops on leaves or the pounding downpour on pavement is music to my ears, maybe even the rhythm of my soul. When a storm is in the forecast, I consult various weather apps to assess approaching cells. I get excited as they advance and pouty if they float by, like a tease, without releasing the precious drops that I crave. Every time rain falls I hurry outside to watch, to listen, to smell the air and to feel it. I put out my hand to touch the drops wondering if this rain will feel different than the last.

If a storm hits during the night and I learn about it the next day, I am disappointed by what I missed. During the warmer months, I sit on my front porch, reading a book, with a glass of wine in hand. Should rain arrive, life could not be any better. I also enjoy yoga outside while listening to classical music but the perfect yoga practice is beneath the awning when the rain falls. Listening to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings while watching the rain is, well, so satisfying. This is my beach. This is my dock at the cottage.

When I watch a news report from Vancouver or somewhere in the U.K. and it is raining, I envy their good fortune. Recently, while watching the television series The Handmaid’s Tale I noticed a sense of happiness welling up within me during scenes that featured lowering skies and pounding rain. My feeling of contentment and comfort was at odds with the storyline.

A few months ago I announced to my husband that I would like to spend time where it rains. I am looking for a location where I could spend a month or so and spoil myself with rain, wind and gloomy skies. Somewhere with a dramatic landscape; craggy cliffs bordering a large body of open water. If I could watch an approaching storm sweep across the sea all would be ridiculously perfect. I welcome all suggestions of ideal locations.

My husband does not share my passion, but he appreciates and laughs at the joy that it brings me. He has a front-row seat to my Pavlovian response when the rain arrives. I sit bolt upright, my head spins to the window, my eyes light up. I shriek in delight and head to the door in full middle-aged gallop. Best not to visualize this scenario; there is a lack of co-ordinated movement.

I have given him the following instructions for when the proverbial bell tolls for me: I wish to be cremated and placed in a small, tasteful urn. I have a small, delicate ceramic bowl with a lid, sitting on a shelf in my living room and I wonder if it would suffice. The folk-style art painted in soft colours on a white background is understated but draws the eye. The scenery depicts a rural landscape of a building, a park, a mountain range and even grey clouds in the sky. How appropriate! I fear that it might be a little too small for my ashes but if I lose weight first I think that I could make it work.

The bowl-cum-urn would double as a doorstop for our garden doors. On rainy days, he would open the door, place me in my rightful spot on the floor so that I may continue to enjoy the weather. Yes, I have thought this through.

I know how I sound but I choose to follow Polonius’s advice about being true to oneself. For those who do not share my passion I add this: on a rainy, grey day, when disappointment abounds, at least you’ll know that there’s one very happy person out there.

Ellen Smoor Foster lives in St. Catharines, Ont.

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