On the Experience of Rain

Many, many years into the future, a citizen of The Red Planet had sent an email to the planet’s newspaper editor curious about the lack of information on an almost forgotten weather phenomenon called raining. Little is mentioned of it except in school history textbooks where storms and floods were part of the old Earth’s volatile weather patterns. The author wondered what it was like when it rained, and what effect it had on people. Did water really come as rain, he asks, unlike now, when water drips from a huge overhead dome or is packaged as a colorless jelly. It was a really interesting question, setting off a chain of scholarly events leading to the unearthing of old letters in the capital’s library that reported actual experiences of rain and its effect on the people.

The letter writers were a people from the West Coast of an long forgotten island called Tasmania situated south of a larger relatively unknown island, called Australia. The West Coast of Tasmania received a lot of natural rain due to its exposure to the weather patterns of high winds, a mountainous terrain, atmospheric depressions, and changes in sea temperatures, which meant that the East Coast of Tasmania received very little rain. Such were the vagaries of the weather and geography that those who needed it most got very little of it, and those who didn’t got too much.  People from the West Coast who had relatives on the East often wrote them letters describing their experiences of rain. The letters were not written to goad the East Coasters nor make them jealous. On the contrary, they wrote to bolster the spirits of their droughty cousins and also to warn them of the down side of rain; because after love comes only sorrow.

Some letters told of the bad rains. Putting aside the fact that it often didn’t come when it was wanted or it came when unwanted, the intensity of it varied. Sometimes it came as a little sprinkle to be hurried away by the rays of the sun when soon no trace of it remained. At other times the rain wouldn’t go away. Not for days, and sometimes not for a whole week. In summer the rain often threatened a human playtime activity called sunbaking, which was a nuisance to the many health conscious West Coasters. Sunbaking was a weekend leisure, where fleshy bodies lay in the baking sun until they reddened and browned, and afterwards the baked bodies then paraded down main streets and walked into drinking places called pubs.

And often with rain came high winds, thrusting it at the earth and at people’s homes. Then the floods would come and the people wondered if they were being punished for all the wrongs they did. Emergency services were roused; whole communities were forced to get along, and together they saved the homes in which they lived. Afterwards insurance assessors would come and the negotiations for compensation would begin, bringing all combinations of stress and relief to the minds of a damaged people. Rain was like the friend one didn’t want to know but couldn’t do without.

Other letters told of the greatness of rain, of its wonderfully fresh smell and feel. When it rained greens were greener, soils richer and life august. When a body is wet from rain it electrifies. No air is cleaner than that washed by rain. Rain is like the gentle hand that caresses all fear and anxiety away. Birds bathed and sang in the rain. Playful animals found more ways to play when it rained. And the West Coasters were most inspired when the rains behaved nicely. That is a steady falling rain, periodically in the evening, which turned itself off when it knew the soil and trees, dams and water tanks had got their fill.

The island itself was a hydro (meaning water) economy which obtained its power by mountain and river water being churned through powerful turbines which sat below great dam walls. These dams were mostly situated on the west side of the island. Over time many dams were built to ensure plentiful power for the entire island. And sometimes the government business which provided the power would seed clouds by flying airplanes through them,  dispersing silver iodide (a chemical causing ice crystals to form) in order to induce further rain. Not that the West Coasters felt that they needed the extra rain. And yet by being able to induce rain, making it behave nicely, the hydro business said the whole community would benefit. Dams and their offspring the power lines would be central to the prosperity of the island’s community. The West Coast inhabitants took the good with the bad. There was some disquiet for a time over the number of dams built, but after a period of unrest Tasmania had become peaceful up until the catastrophe when the forests, those wild suitors of rain, disappeared.

In the interests of the Red Planet’s public these old letters were duly published. The planet’s citizens know only one climate, the climate of heat. No attempt has been made to control it. The West Coasters of Tasmania wrote about a natural phenomenon they tried to control. It was good for the Red Planet’s citizens to know that rain created conflicting feelings of joy and sorrow, despair and hope in their ancestors. They were unlucky. Back then chaos coexisted with order. Too much of nature was out of people’s control, which caused great differences. On the Red Planet these emotions are kept repressed due to the brutal consistency of its hot climate. The Red Planet’s heat demands its survival. The planet’s citizens repress their emotions by making heat irrelevant. And with the letters came the editor’s comment that the future of the Red planet depends on the determined cool adaptation of a very predictable species, and that humans have made great progress since the days of rain.



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