Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Long Plump of Rain

It rains in Scotland and so there are many words for rain--mist, mizzle, drizzle, drooky, and one of my favorites, a plump of rain. Most of the words are onomatopoetic: mizzle is rain that is soft but peristent enough that you need your windhsield wipers, but only on a slow, intermittent setting. Drizzle is a bi-continental term for a rain steady but light and forgiveable. You could walk a block in a drizzle and do no more than hunch up your shoulders and complain about it to the first person you met once you reached shelter.

A drooky rain is a different matter. It is hard to forgive a drooky rain. It is a rain that sticks and each drop seems to hold more water than you would think possible. I walked with rain coat and hat for the equivalent of a city block in my first drooky rain and in that short time, a camera in its case in the pocket of my jacket got wet. Drooky rain is sticky, sneaky, and persistent. The result of being in a drooky rain is, you guessed it, to become drookit.

I was surprised when I came here to discover that people don't use umbrellas until I began to appreciate the perversity of rain here. It may be raining in town, 10 miles away, but not here. It may even be raining on one side of one of our fields and not on the other. That quixotic nature of rain makes it easier to ignore or outmaneuver or outwait it. Unfortunately it can also mean that a rain may be too slight to give the garden a good soak. I remember reading a scant line or two contrasting north east Scotland with the west coast. The west gets more rain, it explained; the east gets wind. The wind can dry out the little bit of moisture left by a dainty rain before it has reached even the top of the roots of tender plants.

The thunderstorms that were the bread and butter of weather in Indiana are rare here. There was recently a tornado down south in England. Tornadoes are even more rare than thunderstorms. A plump of rain is the Scottish counterpart of a thunderstorm without the thunder and lighting. Thunderstorms and plumps have in common the prelude of a filled in sky and heavy air and a postlude of clear, light air after the downpour. To a transplanted Hoosier, it feels like a thunderstorm, it just doesn't look or sound like one.

Plumps, as with thunderstorms, usually pass quickly. They dump their rain in a sullen outpouring and then brighten up again. After several days without any rain, however, we had a plump that just kept on plumping. The rain came faster than the drain in the patio behind the house could accommodate. When Morris discovered it, the accumulated puddle was just on the edge of the door sill. More importantly, one of the low lying fields was so wet that the cattle were in danger of getting mired or drowned. Our stockman was working and worrying to get the cattle out of harm's way.

The burn, which is the traditional boundary of Isauld, is what Morris describes as a "spate" river. It is influenced by these plumps of rain. The volume and the flow both take their character from the weather. The burn moves now like the music in Vivaldi's Four Seasons that represents snow melt in spring or like the music that is its namesake. Spey is Gaelic for spate. The next time you hear Vivaldi or a good strathspey, think of a burn in spate with peat-colored water carving its way down a heathered hill after a plump of rain.


At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so funny to read your description of rain there vs. rain in IN. In fact, I was just trying to describe an Indiana thunderstorm to someone in my new world. I don't have any interesting words for the "rain" in Arizona because it is just that - not so interesting except in that it is infrequent, short in width, and fades quickly when it does come. We just concluded the monsoon season here - imagine - I had no idea that AZ had monsoons!!! Well, the monsoons here are simply lots of wind, dust and maybe just two minutes of rain if you are lucky. During one of the more serious, according to the natives, monsoons this year, Avery and I sat on the back porch and watched the skinny trees and even some of the cactus bend in the wind. Avery laughed at the wind and kept waiting for the scary thunder, which she remembered from last spring in IN. It never came. Invariably, the next day at work, people were talking about how bad the monsoon was. Someone asked me where I was during the storm and I said that Avery and I watched it from the back porch. My goodness, from the stares and slight gasps, you would have thought that I had my baby outside in a REAL thunderstorm. In the past 7 months, I have heard myself respond, "I suppose it's all relative" to comparisons between the AZ weather and the IN weather. Humidity and the cold season (which is on its way I hear) are two more "relativities."

At 8:23 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

I wondered what rain was like in Arizona. I remember finding a little book one time called something like The Land of Little Rain. It was great prose. If you can find it, I think you'd enjoy it.

Send pictures if you can. I cannot imagine how grown up Avery has become. When are you coming to Scotland?

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

love these descriptions and names!

it rains fall through spring here, and much of it fits your description of an unending plump of rain. Inconsequential, nothing to pay attention to, but it goes on for days.

It's the hard, cold rain gone horizontal with wind that I dread.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hayden, I agree with you about horizontal rain, but today I was reading in the Times that rain does not fall tear-drop shaped. It begins as a sphere and big drops can become "hamburger" or "saggy barbell shapes". If there were not atmosphere to slow them down, those little spheres would bombard us at about 300 mph. All of a sudden the horizontal rain looks safer.

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I've seen monsoons at the retreat center in the mountains overlooking Black Canyon City AZ. One can watch them drifting across the mountains in the distance. The amazing thing is the evidence of the rainfall: teeny plants that grew after just a sprinkling of water--they are like miniature green dessert plates resting on the ground.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Ms Piggy, I love the image of dessert plates on the desert!

At 2:05 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I didn't even realize the pun until now reading your response. They also were like miniature green doilies.


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