"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."
- William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice
With rain, rain and prayers for more rain on all our lips, lawns and shrubs drying up water supplies sinking, I've been thinking about an old trick for getting the mind off its troubles.
Since we can't remove the drought by complaining, or learning how to rain-dance, let's turn the situation around and dwell on the exact opposite. In this case, just remember how we felt when it rained so hard basements turned into reservoirs, fields looked more like swamps than flowers or food supplies, and all that run-off water mistook our streets for the canal.
We do this opposite thing anyway, don't we? When it's hot we pray for cooler temperatures which, when they arrive, remind us how much nicer the weather was when it wasn't so cold. Granted, we don't wish for either extreme, but sometimes, like the story I'm about to share, making lemonade is a lot more productive than cursing the lemons.
Before I discovered the benefits of swimming, my daily routine used to begin with a morning walk. But one gloomy, rainy morning I wanted no other exercise than to pull the covers back over my head and skip the ritual altogether. Still I dragged myself out of bed, laced up my Reeboks, and took to the familiar road.
Pit-pat, pit-pat, dropped the rain on my rain slicker hood, the sound amplified by the vinyl fabric so close to my ears. Where had I heard that sound before? Ah, yes, on a tent roof - or roofs - I decided, as memories returned.
For a couple of long-ago months, while waiting for our house to be built, our family lived in a tent. The makeshift shelter was far from plush, but it was quite roomy and adequate for our needs - or so I say now.
As a young teenager, frightfully conscious of outward appearances, I didn't want my friends to know where I lived. Today I hardly remember the embarrassment, but I'll never forget the sound of rain on that roof, how safe I felt underneath, or a father who did his best to care for his family in hard times.
I spent a summer in a tent, too, working as a camp counselor on Cape Cod, Mass. Our campers usually came from cities like Boston or New York and stayed at least a month. Every day was filled with planned activities from wake-up call to lights out, except for the one evening each week we counselors had to come up with an entertainment idea for our own tent.
On one of those on-your-own nights, after a week of solid rain, my 6- and 7-year-olds were too restless to spend another evening lying on their cots, singing silly songs or playing sit-still games. (They were too young to read, and television wasn't even a household word, let alone a camp accessory.) So we did the unthinkable: we went walking in the rain. With yellow slickers on and "good" shoes off, we looked like a miniature fire department off on an urgent call.
We sloshed everywhere we could slosh - down camp trails, along the deserted beach, through puddles instead of around. All the "no-no's" of my youth and theirs fell on ears deafened by the sound of still falling rain. We felt so naughty.
When exhaustion set in we returned to the tent and hung our sloppy slickers on the ropes to dry. Then, snug in dry pajamas, listening to raindrop-lullabies singing through our shelter roof, seven little girls and one contented counselor slept like babies.
No one caught cold, no one complained about the weather or homesickness and, I suspect, no one has forgotten the night the slicker brigade put the sun back into their cloudy skies.
Never fear, my fellow, drought-stricken Georgians: In due time it will rain - and rain - and rain again.
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.
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