It’s cliche, and the title of a song by ’80s glam metal band Cinderella, to say you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Even in the desert, we never realized how accustomed to getting rain we were, until it stopped coming.
That’s why Tuesday was so astounding, wasn’t it? How familiar all the signs of rain were, but how foreign.
It starts when someone walks outside and says, “It looks like it could rain today.”
And you don’t really believe them, but you want to, and any excuse to step outside is a good one.
There, you see the great, puffy thunderheads everywhere, and most of them are white or gray but some are dark and pregnant-looking. Which is appropriate.
It’s been nine months; why shouldn’t they be ready now?
It literally, tactilely feels like it’s about to rain, too. The wind is blowing in that gusty way a hot day gets smothered away before late evening.
The sun is actually being blocked in afternoon, something other than horizon interposes, but that’s not the only reason the temperature’s dropping. Fluffy swamp coolers fill the sky for the first time in ages.
Looking down the streets, far off it looks like dust, but it might be rain. At the Odessa American’s office, we’re getting hit with more blowing dirt than anything, but it’s sprinkling, and you can’t help but feel a little excited that, magically, skywater is actually descending on you, in Odessa, Texas, of all places.
One of our reporters had taken a trip to Italy and Greece recently, and it had drenched her there, but she excited like we were.
“This rain means something,” she says.
It doesn’t really. It’s still a drought. Parched and dead is still parched and dead (although I might have sworn I saw some burned patches along the highways sprout green, here and there, this week).
But it does mean something to us.
So I and the photo editor decide to jump in his car and go looking for rain, hoping, you know, that if the other reporter and photographer doing the same thing strike out, we’ll be a backup and have something for the paper. Really, I think I just want to get rained on. And I suspect his motivations were not dissimilar.
We drive east, because it looks like there’s rain there, and looking far south, I can’t tell whether the dark between the clouds and earth’s curve is dust, smoke from a wildfire, or actually some rain. It was probably dust, but at least the rain was an option.
I get to see something wonderful, wonderful only because it has not been seen here in long.
Lightning and thunder, but puddles, too. Wet tires ahead on Highway 80 spraying mist on the windshield. People driving with their lights on at 6 p.m. And other such miracles.
Finally, we stop at Faudree Road, he gets out in the rain to take photos, I look for someone to talk to.
(I am standing in a puddle that came from the sky. What is this madness?)
Craft Tech owner Burt Stringer tells me how the storm blew in and rained hard for a few minutes before settling in to drizzle. But he seems nonplussed.
“Bound to happen sometime, wasn’t it?” he says.
Yeah. But for a long time, it sure hasn’t felt like it.