The sound of rain calms. But why is rain comforting? On one hand, why bother asking? On the other, why not? In an age of perpetual stress, media-induced anxiety, record cortisol, and self-induced concern over “the other,” why not explore sources of peace? The sound of rain is one.
For those enduring lots of it, rain gets tiring. Noah surely felt that way. For those without it, the wish becomes a longing, which is why the Navajo have a “rain god” named Coyote.
But for most, the gentle sound of falling rain on shingles, tin, or a roof sufficiently thin, joined by wind in the trees or an offhand breeze, tends to still the overwrought heart, calm an uneasy soul.
Maybe the source of rain’s peacemaking resides in what we know, but barely notice. From somewhere above, just below heaven, little unassuming drops drift down, an invisible waterfall charitably poured through a sieve, until we are sprinkled or doused by what the sky will give.
Maybe what comforts the weary mind is something else, a falling rain’s reliable continuity, not changing much minute to minute or day to day, never year to year, always easy to hear – no change, no fear.
Maybe poets are brought to mind, inspired by the falling water’s syncopation, a rainy day’s invitation – to let the mind wander, sometimes forward, sometimes backward. Maybe rain’s merciful murmuring, does the trick.
For some poets, the rain’s cold and inescapable nature is a melancholy, brooding force, by comparison to the bright sun, something worse, to be dreaded or avoided, kind of timeless curse.
To others, it brings growth and color, bud and flower, is a life giver, season within a season, deserving of its hour. Wrote Longfellow, in The Rainy Day, “into every life some rain must fall.”
True, but he also wrote a line, same poem, that gets less play: “Be still, sad heart! And cease repining, behind the clouds is the sun still shining.” Where would flowers be, or any of us, without some rain?
Other poets remind us to appreciate discomfort; we are alive. That is how rain inspired Edward Thomas to write Rain from a wartime trench in 1916, his opening line “Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain.”
For many, rain is something better, more fulfilling, more enchanted, an unexpected trip out the window, to somewhere only reachable during these pitter-patter moments, a curtain through which one cannot pass until there is a curtain.
That was how Emily Dickinson thought of rain, especially after the earth’s midyear tilt to the sun, usually June 21, the summer solstice and coming of warmer rain. In Summer Shower, she wrote: “A drop fell on the apple tree – another on the roof, A half a dozen kissed the eaves, And made the gables laugh; A few went out to help the brook, that went to help the sea – Myself conjectured were they pearls – what necklaces could be…”
Funny too, science knows a quiet rain soothes the soul, like a landing bird or bounding doe, even if it cannot quite say so. Some studies say the process creates alpha waves, which puddle and pond in peace; repetitive sounds and falling pressure, as it rains, calm our overstimulated brains.
Maybe rain is naturally calming, when not too exciting, a break from waterless weather, a chance to refill our cisterns – drained by constant action – with some forced inside time. Maybe rain is just a chance to turn the page, think about wet and dry, grateful for the contrast. Truth is, if you want to know, I really don’t know why.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.