Winter captivity

Rain-Background

An icy blast steals my breath as I zip up my hoodie. Tight jeans, unbearable in summer, hug warmth into my legs. Lollie, my Pomeranian, trots at the end of his leash, ears pricked and tail curled over his back. Rain threatens, and I need to take him for a walk before it’s too late.

Bare black branches reach out to the grey skies above us. Lollie and I tread silently on sodden leaves scattered on the street. I walk as fast as I can in my boots, hoping my pace will keep me from shivering. The day is bleak. Where are my California blue skies? Even though 45-degree temperatures would be mild this time of year in Iowa, my wardrobe is not prepared for this unusual weather.

What will I do the rest of the day? On a typical Sunday, my husband, Frank, and I would be out exploring the back roads on our Harley or camping at the beach. My quick trip around the block today will be the only outside time I can steal. Other tasks await. I could work on revisions to my book or do laundry. But I feel the weight of the black clouds pressing down, draining my energy.

I pull off a glove with my teeth to tap the weather app on my phone. The week’s forecast features a raining cloud next to each day. Great. Not only am I stuck inside this weekend, but the students I teach will be stuck inside my tiny portable classroom all week, too. Children who need playtime to be productive. Quickly I slip my phone back into my pocket and put on my glove. Lollie yanks me to a stop as he sniffs a worm floating in a puddle. A cold raindrop spatters on my cheek.

“Come on, Lolls, let’s go home.” I pull him along with me, almost running the last block back. Wet polka dots appear on the street, as I dash up our driveway and into our warm home.

As my tea steeps, I stare out the slider at circular ripples forming on my swimming pool. I’m held captive inside my own house by a relentless curtain of rain. I take a sip of Earl Grey and close my laptop. Time to read a book.

Am I whining about much-needed rain? Not at all! Californians have restless souls that can only be soothed by excursions into its endless variety of dramatic scenery. The mountains restore our sense of awe. Watching the surf calms our anxieties. The desert expanse reminds us that we are part of a larger design. Our California dreams can’t be contained in houses, condos, or apartments. We need to feel the road under our wheels and soar to the top of the highest peak. Our sense of journey propels us through the chaos of modern life.

And rain, although essential, slows us down, tethers us to man-made things until the sun comes out, and we are free to wander again.

So I read a science fiction book, wrapped in a blanket next to Lollie, waiting for the pounding on my roof to cease. Waiting for release from my winter captivity.

 

 

 

The Problem with Rain

rain

I know that someone who lives in a state that continually suffers drought should not complain about rain. But there’s something you should know about the effect of precipitation on southern California.

First of all, our cities have not been planned for actual water to flow through our streets. Any drainage system that exists is mainly ornamental, and when the gutter rivers begin to rise, the sewers are quickly clogged. This results in instant lakes blocking the intersections of major roads.

Added to that, and perhaps because of that, drivers in southern California don’t know how to operate their vehicles in the rain. Possibly it hasn’t rained since they passed their drivers test. But I believe that these drivers are so accustomed to bright sunny days and clear nights that they tend to throw tantrums if the weather doesn’t cooperate. So they speed through flooded streets, creating tall rooster tails of water on both sides of their cars. Or they panic and stop in the middle of the street, unable to proceed due to the drops of water on their windshields. And their windshield wipers have rotted away in the sun long ago, and the screeching sound of the wiper arms adds to their menace.

Another effect of long-awaited rain is mudslides and falling trees. We never do anything half way in California, so when it rains, it rains solid for three days straight. Those ash-strewn hills trying to recover from wildfires become chocolate pudding that rushes to join the rest of the water blocking the drains at the bottom of the hills. Huge trees come tumbling down on houses and cars. Even houses groan and shift down the hill. The effects of rain can be more devastating than the drought.

Children stay home from school as parents don’t want to battle the rain to drive them, or don’t want their kids to stand soaked at the bus stop. One rural school district even called a “Rain Day” and closed their schools, as buses got stuck in the mud on back roads. Teachers wish they would have stayed home when they are stuck with kids in the classroom all day, California kids that are used to playing outside.

But I hope you understand. I’m not complaining. There’s snow on the ski slopes and water in our lakes. The hills surrounding me are bright green, bringing back memories of Ireland. But our gift of water always comes with a cost. So I guess we just have to be ready to pay it.

 

Rain in the Mirror (A College of the Crones short story)

Boom! Unexpected thunder caused Yvette to jump, resulting in a black line down her cheek.

“Sunne, you’ve ruined my makeup!” she shouted at her crone servant who had been carefully outlining her eyes with a black stick.

“So sorry, my lady, but you moved,” the hunched over, wrinkled old woman insisted as she carefully sponged off the errant line. A flash of lightning blinded them both for a moment.

“I hate thunder storms,” Yvette complained for the tenth time that day. She sighed and fidgeted with her corset. Her reflection in the large mirror on the wall behind her dressing table showed a beautiful young woman being tended by an ugly old woman. In the land of Beautiful, unmarried women over the age of eighteen transformed into hideous crones. But Alfred rescued me from that fate. Her marriage was prerequisite to buying the tonic. But the beauty she saw reflected in her face became marred on days such as this one.

Rain made her life impossible. Her sleek, waist length hair became fuzzy and resistant to the straightening iron. Her face powder clotted into lumps, and her eyeliner refused to dry properly. And that was just getting dressed! Getting into her carriage was an ordeal. Carpets had to be laid from her doorstep to the carriage. Two crone servants had to carry a canopy held up with rods to cover her as she walked outside. One servant walked behind her, lifting up Yvette’s skirts so they didn’t brush against the wet steps. When they finally arrived at the prince’s castle, the canopy came out again as she carefully walked down the carpets provided by the prince’s staff. Dressing rooms just inside the castle provided a final chance to check makeup and hair. A great deal of trouble, even for the prince’s parties.

            “You are finished, my lady,” the crone announced as she stepped back to admire her work. Even though the beauty tonic changed Yvette’s appearance, most of the wives felt that makeup and hair styling were still required. The wife twirled around in her dress, a pale pink blossom of lace and satin. She checked to make sure her golden combs holding back her perfectly straight hair were tight enough. She inspected the tiny pink flowers fastened into the braids using her mirror. Upon her long neck were displayed a set of perfectly matched pearls. Her mouth smirked back at her as she remembered her husband’s uncomfortableness when she received the necklace as a gift from the prince. With a nod to herself, she smoothed down her full skirt and reached for the lace gloves offered to her by her crone servant.

“Not a moment to spare,” Yvette grumbled as she swished out of the room. Sunne replaced the lids on the makeup jars and put them away in the jewel encrusted box on the dressing table. Her stiff curled fingers made the task more difficult than it should. Carefully, she hung the other dresses that had been rejected by her mistress back into the large closet that adjoined the dressing room. Then she walked to the large ceiling to floor window, opening one shutter to glance out at the storm.

Swirling in the wind, the trees surrounding the manor house seemed to hold their vivid green leaves up to gather the drops. The rose garden below her washed their red, yellow, and orange heads in the shower. Gleaming white, the crumbled stone driveway looked like snow. “The rain renews the earth,” she said out loud to no one. No one listened to a crone.

Another grumble of thunder hailed her from the distance. She counted to ten before the answering flash of lightning. The storm was almost past them now. Even though her life was dedicated to service, her mistress sometimes irked her with her petulance. Rain brings beauty. Not the false beauty provided by the tonic, but the real beauty of life. The God Who Really Sees gives rain freely to those who thirst.

raindrop

Heaven’s Tears

Puffy white clouds scoot across the sun in a brilliant blue sky. The air is crispy fresh, and the sand is cool under bare feet. Waves dump foam close to me. On the horizon, a bank of grey threatens but the sunny present holds my attention. After wandering along the debris strewn water line, I found just the right spot to spread out my towel. Relaxing my curves into the moldable sand, I close my eyes and feel the support beneath me. My mind drifts into sleepy places, and then suddenly, a cold splash hits my cheek. It’s nothing, I reassure myself. Plink! Plink! Two drops hit my eyelids. Grudgingly I sit up. The increasing barrage of water announces that the thunderheads have snuck up on me. I grab my towel and dash to the parking lot, woken up by heaven’s tears.