One of the joys of moving to a new town is getting to know the local radio stations. In Athens, the stations resemble the typical mix of genres you’d find in any American town, maybe with a couple extra country stations thrown in. But one quirk about the Athens stations is their uncanny ability to coordinate the playing of songs about the rain with the weather. Seriously, I’ve had it where a single raindrop falls on my windshield and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” starts playing. Followed by CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” And continuing until the rain moves on. Maybe more cities do this and I just haven’t noticed? I think it’s hilarious, and kudos to whomever is responsible for it.
There are countless songs about the rain, and rightfully so. Rain is incredibly powerful: it creates rivers, purifies the air, and sustains entire ecosystems. It can melt statues and monuments through acid rain and create canyons through the earth. As an arborist, heavy rain makes us slow down or stop what we’re doing entirely—apparently, wielding a chainsaw ninety-feet up in the air during a thunderstorm is decidedly unwise. Rain isn’t always defined by its power, though; it can also be gentle, as light and amorphous as a cloud and as subtle as the exhalation of a transpiring leaf.
And yet, in all its forms, rain remains untamed and uncontrolled. It can be predicted with precise instruments, mostly, but even still it goes where it pleases and falls on its own accord.
At Calvin’s campus, outside the biology building, there’s a small rain garden. Like most rain gardens, it’s stuffed to the brim with beautiful plants and teeming with life. A few trees grow in the garden, shading the understory flowers and creating a space that feels unexpectedly secluded and peaceful, even amidst the heavy foot traffic of students whirling right around its edges. There’s a bench in the middle of that garden that where I used to sit, and a rock next to that bench with a poem etched on it:
Often, short poems like that feel trite to me, full of sentiment but lacking depth, like thoughts and prayers offered after a tragedy. But this poem always hit me in a more profound way; it’s like the poem is part of the garden, and the garden part of the poem.
In many ways rain has become emblematic of sadness. The connection seems logical in some ways: tears fall from our eyes like precipitation from the sky, clouds cover the sun and moods can easily dampen. I understand these sentiments, but I don’t share them. For me, rainy days have always felt exceedingly genuine. Rain reminds me, tangibly, of the water cycle, of the ebbs and flows of temperature and humidity required for life. Without rain trees would wither, groundwater would slowly run dry.
Rain is an invitation to go outside, get wet, and let go of our climate-controlled existence. Rain is an opportunity to plant seeds. Or, if you’re an Athens radio station, rain is the perfect occasion to bust out your favorite weather-themed playlist.
Jon Gorter (‘17) graduated from Calvin with degrees in English and environmental studies and holds an MS in natural resources from the University of Michigan. He enjoys fly fishing, mushroom foraging, and waterfall scrambling near his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.