2017-05-18 / Opinion

Pray for rain

You know what they say: Don’t talk about the weather unless you want it to happen to you.

Remember “The Perfect Storm,” based on a true story, the one that sunk the Andrea Gail out of Gloucester, Mass., with all hands, including George Clooney?

I’ll bet some hapless sailor said, “I hope we don’t have a storm,” or “It’s not gonna blow.” And sure enough the thing blew up and sent those fishermen to their deep graves in the howling Atlantic, while their families stood ashore and stared helplessly out to sea.

When you’re into “weather modification rituals” as the anthropologists call it — the scientists who need a good stiff belt of something more serious than water so they can talk straight — that’s how you think. You begin to ignore science and reason in favor of any damn thing that will work.

Let me confess right here: I am now fully engaged in a weather modification ritual, also known as a “commentary,” a “rain dance,” or a “prayer,”

I’ll bet it won’t rain.

There’s no rain — that only falls mainly on the plain. In Spain.

Rain, rain, go away and come again some other day.

Lord, please let it rain.

That’s just a start. You can join me if you wish; if we talk about rain all the time, maybe it will. It’s crazy, I know, but my shallow well’s about to run dry and even the palmettos and pines look like they want to die. The figures will tell you why.

From east to west in the Sunshine State — from Palm Beach to the City of Palms, starting at the beginning of 2017 — somebody forgot to turn on the rain valve. A year earlier somebody forgot to shut it off. In January 2016, almost 13 inches of rain fell on some places, beating the 1991 record of 7.95 by five full inches. The average rainfall in this part of the world, by the way, is 1.93 inches in January and something in the vicinity of 60 inches year-round, about 75 percent of it falling in the summer between May and September.

But this year, in January, we might as well have pitched a tent in North Africa somewhere.

According to U.S. climate data at one weather station on the southwest coast, the rainfall was just over a half-inch, at .51, in January. In February it rained like hell, dropping .58 inches on the parched earth. And in March? Oh, Lord. The skies opened and almost nothing came out: .09 inches fell.

Parts of the Sahara Desert receive more rain than that — as much as four inches of rain per year, or .33 inches a month, on average.

You can draw this conclusion: It would take almost four years — three years and eight months by my parched calculations — for four inches of rain to fall on Florida if the March rates continue.

This is mid-May, now, and I haven’t seen any rain in many days.

You probably see why all of us need to start talking about rain. Not just me. It amounts to this:

FLORIDA IS NOW DRIER THAN THE SAHARA DESERT! (Not the Libyan part, but never mind that.)

Start dancing. Start praying. Shake your fist. Something.

I’ll start singing Doc Watson songs, beginning with “Deep River Blues” as the late flat-pickin’ folk singer from North Carolina called this one:

“Let it rain, let it pour, let it rain a whole lot more/ ’Cause I got them deep river blues,/ Let the rain drive right on, let the waves sweep along/ ’Cause I got them deep river blues.”

Is all this the result of climate change?

That’s another subject. Right now, we’re just trying to make it rain, like the Osage and Quapaw Indians of Missouri and Arkansas once did when they danced for money or trade.

The Indians understood weather patterns, apparently — they’d been watching them for thousands of years, after all. So for pay, whenever they figured rain would fall and the newcomers needed it, they’d dance for settlers.

The Zuni Indians down in the southwest, meanwhile, danced adorned with feathers and turquoise, the feathers to bring wind and the turquoise to transport water from the heavens.

Maybe it worked, and maybe I’ll try it.

Or I might try praying, which is how I’ve always read the anonymous 800-year-old poem, graphically designed (and shown here) by the late, Kansas-based calligrapher Eva Williams, the mother of Florida Weekly writer Evan Williams.

On all counts — rain or love (and perhaps rain is love) — it’s the most beautiful dance for rain I’ve ever seen, heard sung or prayed.

May the small rain fall. ¦

Return to top