What would your monument to rain look like? I think of a rubberized coated concrete interactive map the size of a basketball court. The height of the concrete would show the average precipitation in the US in three dimensions. The highest rainfall points in the US would scale up to be five feet higher than the lowest points. Kids could use it as a playground. They would interact with rain’s variability as they were running from coast to coast.
A monument to rain would have to have a number attached to it. Rain is often communicated as statistics grounded in inches, hours, or days. There is a new monument to rain near me at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens. It is metal structure titled “787 Watershed Moment.” You see on July 13, 2013, a 787 year storm event occurred. 8” of rain fell in four hours flooding parts of the garden.
A monument would not need to be concrete or metal; it could be Plexiglas. Deep in the Jocassee gorges bordering North Carolina and South Carolina annual rainfalls can be close to 100 inches which is the generally accepted definition of a rain forest. At the North Carolina visitor center their monument to the rain is a Plexiglas tube where the wonders of rain is in inches of annual rainfall.
So, why I am thinking about rain today? I just finished Cynthia Barnett’s latest book entitled “Rain: A Natural and Cultural History.” I am not sure how she did it, but she did it. She created and weaved a collection of science, history, and personal stories on rain.
Cynthia introduces us to rain without an inches number attached to it. She narrates stories of how it shaped our landscapes, religions, and civilizations, and even music. For example, she told a bewitching story of the prevailing theory of the development of the Nebraska landscape. The theory was that “once the dutiful settlers broke up land with their plows…rainfall would seep down” creating more moisture which would lead to more evaporation which would lead to more rain. A new slogan was born “Rain follows the plow.”
Another of my favorite chapters was the history of our attempts to create rain. One attempt in 1891 on Texas Prairie was deafening. Proponents used mortar shells to blast rain out of the sky with the theory that concussions could create rain. For ten days “the sky soldiers dynamited, bombed, and shot the atmosphere; flew their kites; and exploded their balloons.”
Maybe rain doesn’t need a monument. Like a lot of things we take for granted in life, we just need to be reintroduced to rain. So, say hello to rain this summer and pick up Cynthia’s new book. Rain was released last week. Pick up your copy today (non-affiliate link).