Squirrel’s Sense of Rain


Smilla’s Sense of Snow” is a best selling novel by Danish writer Peter Hoeg which was made into a movie in 1997.  Julia Ormond played the lead character, Smilla, who grew up in Greenland.  The premise is that Eskimos have about a couple of hundred words to describe the different types of snow and Smilla uses her knowledge of the different types of snow to solve  the mystery of the death of a young boy.   A couple of hundred words for snow.  Probably not true but what an interesting thought nonetheless.

It’s raining here today.  A slow but steady drizzle that started the previous night so that we woke up this morning to a wet and overcast world.  Typically, this steady and long rainfall always causes the traffic to slow to a crawl and as I waited in the gridlock, my mind drifted towards contemplating the different types of rain that I have experienced in my life.

When the rain falls gently but steadily in a light shower, I like to go out for long walks.  I’d put on a raincoat with a hood an just lose myself in the rain.  I enjoy the sound of the rain striking the raincoat and watching the water dripping off the edge of the hood.  I like the occasional refreshing gentle spray of water on my face or running down my fingers.  I do a lot of good thinking in this rain.  I often start my walk while in a funk but by the end of the walk my mood would have been lifted as if my worries were washed away.  I guess I could call this type of rain, “therapeutic rain”.

There is another sort of liquid precipitation that is common in only certain parts of the world.  I refer to “thick pea soup fog”.  This is when the temperature is on the cold side but the air is almost fully saturated with moisture.  Water hangs in the air in the form of tiny droplets which readily settle on all surfaces.  I became very familiar with this type of precipitation when I went to visit a friend in Hastings, England.  Hastings has some spectacular cliffs and I made four attempts over a two year period to see these cliffs.  However, each time I went along the cliff top, everything was hidden behind this wall of white moisture.  I guess for me, it will always be known as the Hastings Horror Rain.

Hastings in the Fog

I once did a silly thing when I went fell walking in the English Lake District without first checking out the weather forecast.  As a result, I was caught on the exposed hill tops to fiercely icy driving rain which soon penetrated through the layers of my water resistant gear and drenched me and waterlogged my clothes in freezing cold water.  So this sort of rain should rightly be called “Fool’s rain” because only fools go walking in this rain and the cold and wet soon made me hypothermic and made me behave even more like a fool.  I actually ended up sitting by the side of a lake as a thunder and lightning storm broke above me, smiling and clapping at the light and sound display.  Only when my brain warmed up later that I realised how stupid I was to be twiddling my toes in the lake water during a lightning storm.

One of my favorites is the first rains of the monsoon.  This seasonal rain of the tropics can be awe inspiring.  If you have a good vantage point, you can actually see the dark clouds and the rain advance across the landscape like a heavy curtain; a distinct wall of water falling down on to the earth.  You could be standing in sunshine and yet a tremendous wall of water could be just ten meters away and advancing rapidly.  You could not outrun this water curtain and once it caught you, there was no way to keep dry.  The sheer volume of water coming down, pooling at your feet and splashing back upwards make umbrellas and most measures totally ineffectual.  It is the closest to being in water as you can get while walking on land.  This  “Monsoon Curtain Rain” would soon cause the playing fields to be covered with a layer of water and you would soon hear the sound of laughter as children take the opportunity to play soccer in the water and mud.  I have fond memories of Monsoon Curtain Rain.

What types of rain do you like or dislike?

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15 thoughts on “Squirrel’s Sense of Rain”

  1. Well, since I’m Irish, I must like rain, right? Ireland has a variety of different types of rain, not all of which I like. While there is majesty in booming thunder and flashing lightening, violent weather of any kind scares me. My favourite kind of rain is a light mist, which doesn’t hammer down, but kind of hangs in the air and gives everything a romantic, blurred edge!

  2. I will suffer warm water summer storms of any degree without complaint. But this frigid drizzle mess we are having in late march I curse the sky for peeing it on me.

  3. I like pouring rain that makes noise as it hits the roof or ground. I love the sound of water in general. I love the sound of the ocean, river, creek, waterfall, etc, etc. When I lived in Washington State it was easier to do things in the rain because it was more predictable. Here…it could be drizzling, but then two minutes later it’ll be pouring.

  4. You missed a couple types of rain, such as the fine mist on an otherwise nice day. It is not raining per se, but you will be damp if you walk in it for five minutes. This I call BC (British Columbia) Air.

    Then there is the winter rain in a rain forest, which gives BC it’s reputation. It is the hard, steady rain that goes on for days without let up, calling to mind notions of ark building. That’s why I call it 40-Day Rain, though you are lucky if it lasts only 40 days.

    There are the spring showers which bring May flowers, though in BC these are more of a February/March thing for March/April flowers (depending on groundhogs and their shadows).

    I believe there are actually 34 words for snow in the Inuit language, though it may depend on the particular language/dialect. Maybe there are a 100 words all told, between the different dialects? Possible.

    Supposedly the Inuit have (or at least had) no words for time. Just goes to show what is and what isn’t important to them. Snow can help hinder or kill, so many words. In a part of the world with six months of sun and six months of dark, time gets skewed.

  5. I like all kinds of rain, which is fortunate as it has rained nearly every day of the last three months here. Lately, we’ve had alternating bright sunshine and torrential downpours, several of each per hour. I’m sure you could devise a perfect name for this kind of rain, maybe Rain Interrupted. In ancient China, “clouds and rain” is the English translation of a euphemism for lovemaking. I especially love wild rain storms, but gentle misty rain is also lovely to walk in.

  6. I like a very very light rain. It always makes my hair very curly and better than I could ever style it. I guess I would have great hair in Ireland. When I can stay in, I like a good moderate, non-windy, steady rain. I like the way it sounds on the skylights. Speaking of wind, my least favorite rain is the kind that comes with violent driving wind.

  7. Molly,
    You are indeed the romantic Irish lass. Honestly, I do like walking in all sorts of precipitation. Do you think I might be Irish too?

    Janice,
    I know what you mean. The rain clears the air and the natural smells of nature seem accentuated. It is heady perfume.

  8. secret agent,
    That’s the two extremes of rain – one shows power and one shows tenderness and nurturing. A fascinating contrast.

    emerrube,
    I’m totally with you on this. I love the sounds of water in all its forms but rain falling on a metal roof is one of my favorite memories from childhood.

  9. blackcrag,
    I think I would love to experience your BC Air and the 40 Day Rain for myself. Perhaps …..one day.

    hearts,
    “clouds and rain” …yes, I remember reading that somewhere though I can’t remember if it was Chinese or Japanese.

  10. Mark,
    May the sun shine and the sky stop peeing.

    geewits,
    emmerube and you both mentioned the sound of the rain and I agree. Rain on a zinc roof brings back childhood memories for me.

  11. I don’t mind the rain. I dispise sideways rain where the wind hurts when it slaps your face. Tornado rain where the sky is greenish/yellow and ominous scares the pants off me. It doesn’t happen too often here in Ottawa but when it does I can’t speak I get so nervous.

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