It rained yesterday.
It’s been raining a lot this summer, here in my corner of the desert Southwest, drenching rains that make doors swell and stick shut, that cause foot-tall weeds to spring up seemingly overnight, that turn dry washes into temporary raging rivers as water struggles to soak into soil baked hard by decades of drought. We tell one another how grateful we are, to see water in this land defined by its lack, hoping our gratitude will encourage the rain to keep coming.
But until yesterday I didn’t feel grateful, as the rain fell with startling regularity, filling our blue skies with clouds for hours, even days, on end and shrinking our usually distant horizons. Instead I felt like those skies: dull and soggy and gray. I felt like surely it would rain forever.
It’s been a rough couple of years. There’s nothing particularly special about my pandemic story—my family and I are as safe as anyone can be, safe and sheltered, and I’m keenly aware of how many people can’t say as much. Yet I’ve been slogging through these Covid says, feeling alone as so many of the ways I used to escape isolation—sharing a meal, going to a movie, catching a plane someplace else to visit far-flung friends—have turned from everyday luxuries to foolish, even dangerous acts. Watching others happily continue to engage in these activities, often without even basic safety measures, only deepens the sense of isolation, prolonging the pandemic and making it feel like these days are never going to end.
Like this rain is never going to end.
There are new stresses this fall, too, as I send my child back to school in a state that’s actively fighting to deny districts those safety measures, putting classrooms full of unvaccinated children like mine at risk. Yet keeping children at home carries risks, too, leaving families without any good choices, but only bad choices and slightly less bad choices.
Loneliness. Depression. Stress. These days have been gray since long before the summer rains began.
I’ve been working to pull my feet out of the soggy mud of where-we-are for what feels like a very long time. Working on sleep, working on exercise, working through therapy, working, finally, with medication. Working to accept the up days and the down days, working to understand why my instinctive “fight” response has gone into stress overdrive, working to remember that, deep down, I’ve always believed that light shines through the darkness, rather than the other way around—a belief that’s informed nearly everything I’ve written.
I’ve not been writing much, during these pandemic days and months and years.
Yet yesterday, something shifted. Just a little. For just a bit.
The rain had been slowing down, dousing us every few days instead of every single day. The Sonoran Desert is moving toward autumn, slowly, inevitably. There are more blue days than gray ones now.
But yesterday the clouds got up a full head of steam early, and by mid-afternoon our weekend family gaming and reading and web-surfing were interrupted by first a rumble, then a crash. And because it was mid-afternoon and not night, my husband, my daughter and I all spontaneously ran out beneath our carport as the rain began to fall.
It was a wild rain—full of wind blowing trees, full of water that whooshed beneath our feet as the carport turned into a puddle, full of lightning flashes and bright bolts that bridged the gap between earth and sky.
And for once, something in me leapt up to meet that wildness. To enjoy it. To revel in it.
I stood outside getting splashed by cold gusts of rain, and for the first time in what I only then realized was a long time, I felt something that wasn’t anger or exhaustion or fear, something that was, tentatively, inching toward joy.
I splashed with my daughter in the growing puddle at our feet. I watched the mesquite tree in our yard whip back and forth in the wind. I laughed when the storm rumbles gave way to a series of loud cracks.
It was a just-wild-enough storm, fierce but not dangerous if one had shelter nearby. It was a storm that could be enjoyed, and so I enjoyed it, as I hadn’t enjoyed the summer’s other storms, for no better reason than that when this storm came, something inside me was, at last, ready for it.
As I splashed and laughed I thought about the last time I was recovering from a depression this deep. There came a point, as I fought that depression, when I saw a full moon rising over the mountains, and looked at it, and felt the brilliance of its silver light someplace deep inside me, where for countless months before I’d appreciated the moon and everything else with only a distant sort of intellectual knowledge.
That startling moonlit moment wasn’t the end of the tunnel I’d found myself in. But it was a start—a reminder of Before, a first hint of a way out.
Here in the desert, as in the rest of the country, Covid cases are still rising, and a great many people are still ignoring or denying the fact, and all of us are paying the price. There remains cause enough for fear and despair.
But it rained yesterday. If I can hang on to the feeling of a wet, cold storm just wild enough to wake me up a little, maybe I can find a way out of my own personal tunnel this time, too. Maybe I can chart a course through those parts of the current darkness that come from within, rather than from without.
And maybe, just maybe, I can find once again the brilliant silver light that knows how to shine through the dark after all.