News

The Sound of Rain

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | October 09, 2010

"Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life."
John Updike

I love rain. I always have. I guess when you grow up on a farm you just know how closely life is connected to that valuable liquid which falls from the sky. 

I love the smell of rain. A fresh spring rain smells different than a humid summer rain and crisp fall rain smells different than a raw winter rain. I don't know if it is the temperature or the plants or just the landscape or all of them together but rain has different smells. 

But even more than the smell of rain, I love the sound of rain. The other day I was sitting on our back porch in the rain and I focused on the sounds I was hearing. Our porch roof is made of metal and when rain dumps out of the sky, that sound transports me back to the old porch swing on our farm where I would sit in the rain going back and forth with my feet barely long enough to move it. 

As the rain kept coming I heard the soft sounds as it pelted our wind chimes. Even the sound of rain on plants varies from plant to plant. Rain falling on pine trees with their tiny needles sounds different than rain falling on sycamore trees with their huge leaves. Rain falling on butterfly bushes with their delicate blossoms sounds different than rain falling on large elephant ears. 

When our children were small we had a small pop-up camper. Our goal was to visit all of the lower 48 states and we actually almost made it, lacking only five states in the northwest. We will always remember how well we slept when it rained on that roof while all of us were tucked away for the night. There was just nothing like waking up in the middle of the night to that sound. 

I remember listening to rain at several places in Africa. The sound of rain on the Island of Mauritius out in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa resembled a tropical island in the rain. The rain forest of Nigeria, however, had a different sound altogether as we watched rivers swell with brown muddy silt. 

But the African rain I most remember was in Kenya. We were about an hour outside of Nairobi where we were spending the night. The place we stayed resembled the old motels years ago where each small building housed several people. I will always remember standing in that small doorway of one of them as a deluge of rain came down. 
The exotic birds and monkeys and whatever other creatures of the jungle serenaded us making any visit to a zoo since then a mere shadow of that moment. But it was the sound of the rain that I most remember. To this day when it rains hard like that on a hot, steamy day I will say to Evie, "This sounds just like rain in the African jungle." 

Have you ever just listened to the rain on the roof of your car or on an umbrella or as you sat in an airplane on a runway waiting to take off? Every sound is unique and with each sound we reconnect with seasons in our lives when rain was the common denominator. 

I would have to agree with Bill Rodgers who said, "I love the rain, actually." Sure, there are times like graduation here on our campus when we don't want the rain but, like Tom Barrett said, "If the rain spoils our picnic, but saves a farmer's crop, who are we to say it should not rain." 

Next time it rains, stop and listen. And whether it is a cloudburst or a slow steady, all day rain, really listen. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu