Week 31: Rain

When I landed in Athens, a storm came in from the Algerian Sahara and rained great slashes of ferrous mud. Does baptism mean being in two places at once, one against your skin always, the other raining down on you? From the Acropolis: a mountain where St. Paul preached to the Greeks. I despise him for his prejudices, his loud-mouthedness and contempt; I love him whole-heartedly.

The air is soup, bathwater, before rain. Baroreceptors in my cerebral vessels get confused. A storm over the Dakotas: they think my pressure is dropping. Not inside but outside, dears, not shock but storm. They dilate away, then headache, then coffee or stormfall to remedy.

With more rain, more cyanobacteria. Their movements: filamentous, oscillatory, hollowed and spherical. They birthed all life when their photosynthesis gave us oxygen in the atmosphere, rusted the earth. Minnesota, when it was only seabed, was built by them, bacteria cementing the great banded iron cliffs from sediment.

I forget St. Paul’s hills until it rains, until I slip where the mud has collected. Striated flows (I keep thinking “lahars”) as it moves downhill. White streaks from bare limestone draw chalky lines through the alleys.

I like to live in a city by imagining how many different places and layers it bears, bacteria building houses and preparing us a home, the shadow of a cephalopod just overhead.

Materials: Gouache. The image is of patterns in a post-rain mud flow on the north side of Portland Ave in St. Paul.

I fact check my poetry and fiction.  Say a character has stolen the ashes of a friend’s mother and it’s staring to rain.  I look up why rain smells, I must understand the physical world and facts to fly when I write.

Science has a lot of rules – a field scientist doesn’t change plans with the weather.  Rain or shine or snow or blazing hot or below zero. This rule is layered over the rule that you start early and don’t stop until you’re done. I’ve worked well past dark, past feeling in my fingers, past soaking wet, past clarity of thought.

The smell of rain comes from plant oils and chemicals in the soil that are released.  The word for this is Petrichor. Petra means stone in Greek, Ichor blood of the gods. 

The rules to being a scientist were all about giving the self over, as if the lakes and mud I studied were gods with blood running through their veins.

Materials: “Rite in the Rain” All-Weather Field Book paper. Pencil and water color.

Note: This postcard is water (rain) proof.

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