Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Farmer's Daughter Hears a Thunderstorm

Heirloom pumpkin blossom after the rainstorm, Aug. 30, 2012.
I never think of myself as a farmer's daughter, although of course I am.  Both of my parents grew up on farms and their outlook on life is unmistakably rural.  I always thought I'd grown up to have a vastly different-- and decidedly urban-- outlook on life.  But I now realize that my parents' values have seeped into my consciousness far more than I realized, especially where the weather is concerned.

Last week we had a sudden and unexpected summer thunderstorm,  which is a highly unusual event in Los Angeles.  When I heard the unmistakable sound of rain pounding on concrete, I flung open the front door and watched the storm roll in.

After a few minutes, I tore myself away from the front porch long enough to grab a phone and call my husband, who was working 15 miles west of our house.  I knew I was interrupting his work day, but I was dying to know if the storm had hit his office first.  He seemed confused, but when he realized my call was the result of pure excitement, not desperation caused by imminent danger, he was amused.  I told him the rain was coming down so hard it was flowing over the sidewalks.  I knew it was time to hang up when he asked if I was loading animals onto the ark yet.  I was embarrassed.  And at that moment, I realized that my excitement about the summer storm was a bit unusual.

I forget that my family's obsession with the weather is a stereotypically "country" phenomenon.  It's been my experience that people raised in cities (especially Los Angeles) have little interest in the weather.  The weather is much more important to a farmer than it is to somebody who works in an office.  Of course, the weather impacts the lives of everyone on the planet to varying degrees, but when you watch your crops die as a result of drought or see your corn field flattened by a freak summer storm, the weather plays a primary role in your day to day life.  And once you have an understanding of the importance of the weather, that need to know about the weather never really goes away.

I used to laugh at my father for asking me about the weather each and every time he called me.  For the first ten years I lived in Southern California, I'd always tell him the same thing-- "It's eighty degrees and sunny, dad.  Just like it is every day."  Even if it wasn't.  But after a decade of living in Los Angeles, I learned to appreciate the subtle (and not so subtle) changes in our weather.

On the morning of the storm, I sat glued to my television to hear the latest on the path of Tropical Storm Isaac, which had already driven many people from their homes and caused one flood-related death.  We have family in New Orleans, including an aunt who lost her home to Hurricane Katrina.  We all know it is a mistake to ignore the weather.  Of course, there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves from it. Weather will do what it will do.  For the most part, all we can do is sit and watch.  And hope for the best.

Half an hour after the storm ended, the sidewalks were dry, but I discovered two inches of water in the tiny wagon my daughter uses to collect weeds in our garden.  On the morning of the storm, this wagon was dry.  A few minutes later, it contained over two inches of water.  This might not seem like much, but it was a reminder of the surprising and powerful force that is our weather... and why we need to pay attention.