On rainy afternoons in Los Angeles

The forecast looks pretty rain-free for the next little while, at least, but our recent rainy days have had me navel-gazing.

I used to like it when it rained in LA because it reminded me of home.

I grew up somewhere significantly cooler and damper than Southern California. It was a world of sharply differentiated seasons: hot muggy summers gave way to brisk, breezy autumns; the winters could be punishing and dangerous, and springs were when the snow and sky turned gray and everything melted away. While the rumors that we don’t have weather and seasons here in LA are completely untrue, when I first moved here, I missed the gradual shifts and changes. I had to figure out a different way of marking time. And sometimes, still, I still feel a little disoriented when I look out the window in November and see what would have passed for summer sun back home. But on one of those rare, rainy LA days, I could pretend that it was fall or spring near the Great Lakes. I clung to LA’s rainy days, I relished them, because they reminded me of where I had come from. But because of that, they also reminded me that I wasn’t from here, and that home was really and truly some place else.

I used to like it when it rained in LA because it reminded me of London.

I got to spend an autumn doing research there while I was in grad school. That fall, when it wasn’t raining, there was a constant mist in the air, and everything felt damp and gray. It was perfect weather for wandering. The hours that I didn’t spend in the British Library’s reading room I spent bundled into my scarf and coat, roaming around the city. I walked so much that my boots had holes in the soles by the time I left. The gray sky and the chill in the air were so much more inviting on long walks than the summer sun. And when I got back to LA, rainy days reminded me of that sense of freedom and adventure. I could pull my coat out of the back of my closet, and go for a walk in the rain, and suddenly the vast expanses of this city felt smaller, like I could own them as I navigated them on foot.

Now I’m learning to love it when it rains in LA because it is raining in LA.

For a long time, being in Los Angeles was a weird, temporary, in-between state for me. I came here to go to school, I thought I would leave when I was done, but I ended up sticking around a while longer. For the past few years, I thought for sure I’d be leaving: I was chasing an academic career, a path with notoriously dismal prospects, and I was interviewing for jobs all over the place. But I’m changing my mind about what I want to do and be. More and more, being in Los Angeles doesn’t feel like a liminal state anymore, and more and more I’m realizing that I don’t want it to be a temporary condition. So I’ve spent the past few months adjusting and shifting, changing the way that I see this city. LA has stopped being a place that happens to be where I am for now, at the moment, and has started being the place where I am. As I figure out what I’m doing next, I need to feel like I am actually present here, and not just in an in-between state.

LA rain is undeniable in its presence: when it rains, it rains unrelentingly, like it’s making up for lost time. I love the sound of it on the roof of my tiny house, the sound of an endless percussive refrain. I love the sight of the clouds rolling in over the hills and ocean. I love how many rainbows I see here, as the sun and the rain duke it out. And love the day after it rains, when the sky seems even bluer by comparison; when everything seems washed clean, and I can see the mountains crystal clear as we drive up the 405 to work in the morning.

I used to like it when it rained in LA because it reminded me of places that felt like home. Now I love it when it rains in LA because LA is finally feeling like home.

One Reply to “On rainy afternoons in Los Angeles”

  1. Of all the things rain brings, what I enjoy the most is the deep azure blue of the skies and seeing the snow on the hills above me when a storm clears.

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