Out in the Rain By James George Needham

Out in the Rain By James George Needham


"Rain! Rain!
Oh, sweet Spring rain!
The world has been calling for thee in vain
Till now, and at last thou art with us again.
Oh, how shall we welcome the gentle showers.
The baby-drink of the first-born flowers,
That falls out of heaven as falleth the dew,
And touches the world to beauty anew?

Oh, rain! rain! dost thou feel and see
How the hungering world has been waiting for thee?
How streamlets whisper and leaves are shaken,
And winter-sleeping things awaken,
And look around, and rub their eyes,
And laugh into life at the glad surprise;
How the tongues are loosened that late were dumb,
For 'the time of the singing of birds has come';
How every tender flower holds up,
In trembling balance, its tiny cup,
To catch the food that in sultry weather
Must hold its little life together?
Oh, blessings on thee, thou sweet Spring rain,
That callest dead things to life again!"

—James Brown Selkirk (Rain).

From the point of view of thirsty things, the best weather is the day of rain. The earth grows brown and sere, waiting for it. Growth ceases. The cattle languish. The farmer scans the sky anxiously, looking for' clouds that promise refreshment; for water is life's prime necessity.

The rain comes with phenomena of great impressiveness. Were such things to be seen at only one place in the world, men would travel the world over to see them. Bold thunderclouds rise, with crests as white as snow, resting on banks as black as ink. The lightning flashes and the thunder rolls. The landscape darkens and the rain descends. Zigzag flashes cleave the blackness only to intensify it. There is a scent of ozone from overhead, and the scent of the ground comes up from below. It rains. And then the clouds lift a little, and a flood of light flows in on the freshened atmosphere. The rain ceases and the verdure of the earth appears, slaked and washed clean.

We do not, naturally, seek to keep out of the rain. As children, we sought to be out in it. The warm summer rain was as refreshing as sunshine. It is due to our clothes that we avoid getting wet. Our modern attire is set up with starch and glue, and the rain wilts it. For the sake of such artificial toggery, we sacrifice some pleasures that are part of our natural birthright.

Other creatures enjoy the rain. At its approach, many of them enter upon unusual activities. Insects swarm. The rabbits by the roadside become more familiar. They approach nearer to our doors, and sit longer amid the clover when we come near them. Snakes run more in the open; indeed, a snake in the open roadway is a venerable "sign" of rain. Chickens oil their feathers, alternately pressing the oil-gland and preening with their beaks; and if they get well waterproofed before the storm breaks, and if the downpour be not too heavy, they will then stay out in it, and enjoy it. Many birds sing more persistently—notably the cuckoo, which doubtless, from this habit got the name "rain-crow." Frogs croak vociferously, as if in pleasant anticipation. Flowers bend their heads.

When it rains, the moisture-loving things come forth. Slime-molds creep out over the logs. Mushrooms spring up. Slugs and millepedes and pill-bugs wander forth into the open, and earthworms, as well, at night. And everywhere running water is performing its great functions of burden-bearing, cutting, filling, leveling, and slowly changing the topography of the land, and distributing all manner of seeds over its surface. There is plenty to see and plenty to hear when it rains.

Study 41. Out in the Rain

This is a study for the day when raincoats and rubbers and umbrellas have to be taken afield, and when the coming on of a heavy shower puts an end to other work. Then, instead of fleeing indoors, it will be well to stay out and see some of the interesting things that go on in the rain.

The program of work for the day of rain will vary with time and circumstances. Therefore, we shall have to be content with a very few general suggestions.

First, before the storm breaks, during the lull when the "thunderheads" are mounting the sky, it will be a good time to observe the increased activity of certain animals, the preparatory movements of certain flowers, the interesting behavior of the barnyard fowls, and, above all, to listen to the anticipatory chorus of frogs and tree-toads, and birds and crickets and other animals that can not keep still.

Then, when the rains comes, the water-shedding power of different kinds of foliage may readily be tested, if members of the class will step under trees of different kinds and wait, with raised umbrellas, and note how long it takes for the raindrops filtering through the foliage to come through in sufficient numbers to make a continuous patter, with no individual drops distinguishable. One may test the way in which any tree standing in the open disposes of the water that falls upon it, by walking under it over all the area it covers and listening to the sounds of the drops falling about his head, on the stretched umbrella.

When things are soaked with rain and the water is gathering in rills, there are many things that may then be observed with unusual advantage. The clouding of the streams with inflowing silt will be very obvious. The burden the streams are carrying may be easily demonstrated. It may be tested by dipping a glass of running water and letting the water settle to see the sediment; by placing one's fingers across the current so as to feel the pelting of the pebbles that are carried by the rill; or, by listening to the pounding of the rocks in their descent of the larger gullies. Part of what the stream carries is floating stuff—stems and leaves, that will fall and decay, and seeds that will spring up in new situations. The washing of different kinds and conditions of soil may be seen. Indeed, it is only out in the rain that erosion by the rills, and the building of miniature deltas and flood-plains, may be seen at their height.

When the rain has ceased, the rate of drying of the surface of different kinds and conditions of soil may be observed. One should compare newly plowed and fallow land, bare fields, meadows and woods. Certain moisture-loving animals will be seen abroad abundantly when the shower is ended— snails, slugs, pill-bugs, worms, frogs, etc. Indeed, the wood thrush is likely to be heard singing again almost as soon as the downpour is ended; for, as Alexander Wilson observed of it, "The darker the day, the sweeter is its song."

The record of this study may properly consist of notes on things heard and seen, that are connected in any way with the coming of the rain.