I loved the rain when I was a kid. It caused my parents some consternation that I loved most to play in the rain. The rain is almost magical. And growing up, it created a certain discord in me because I loved the rain but I knew that my father, a building contractor, could not work when it rained. And this was a problem because my father’s business acumen was very similar to that of Bob Belcher on Bob’s Burgers. That is: we were always living on the edge but proud of the quality of dad’s workmanship.
But there was something deeper about my love of rain. As I know I’ve explained before, I’ve always been highly skeptical of gravity. It’s like electricity. In college, the only course I had trouble with was electronics. I wanted to know why electrons went to ground. And my professors would always give me the same lame answer, “Where else would they go?” I don’t know! These people have such confidence in the universe. It was probably a mistake for someone with such a strong mystical and metaphysical orientation to go into physics. It’s like a Jew joining the Klan. But I did it and it was doubtless good for me.
But I still don’t trust gravity. I am a master of mechanics. I understand all the theory that explains why the Moon doesn’t fall on my head and why I don’t float away from the surface of the Earth. But when I see a big blue sky, I still think that all my years of experience being pressed to the surface of the Earth is just a great big bluff and that God is going to flip a switch and I’m going to go floating away. For millennia, people have been searching for the meaning of existence. But that’s what it is: God’s practical joke on Frank. Oh, how he will laugh!
Up until about 8 years ago, I was skinny. Painfully skinny. And my grandmother used to tell me all he time, “One day a wind will come up and blow you away!” But what was I supposed to do? Drink the milk she served that came from a cow? I knew there was something very wrong with all that and so I was always skeptical of food that didn’t come from inside a well designed box. And by the way: my grandmother was very small too, so I don’t know what she was complaining about.
This image of my body being blown away has never left me. But I don’t imagine wind. I just imagine gravity not working. And let’s face it: it could happen. It’s not like we have a contract. Remember Bertrand Russell’s example of the chicken: every day is great and then one day they cut your head off. Now, for the record, if gravity stopped, the atmosphere would immediately vanish, and we would suffocate if we weren’t first destroyed by high energy particles. But the fact remains that we would die — and fast.
Somehow, cloud cover and even nighttime makes me feel less exposed. And rain is even better because it is falling — a sure sign that gravity is still working as advertised and that God hasn’t sprung his little practical joke. But all this is just the result of my having a fanciful imagination. I understand that. There are very real feelings that go along with it, but I know intellectually that there is nothing to fear. The problem is that now there is a related fear that is very real indeed.
For the purpose of rainfall totals, the season starts on 1 July. And here in my hometown of Santa Rosa, we have an average rainfall total by the end of December of 11.4 inches. And last year, we had a very wet December with roughly 12 inches in that month along, but a total of over 17 inches for the season to that point. It looked great. It looked like our drought was over. But it wasn’t.
Normally, the first three months of the year have rainfall totals: 6.0, 5.2, and 3.6. But last year, we got: 0.9, 0.4, and 1.9. This year, we should normally have a total rainfall of 11.4 inches. Instead, we have 6.7 or 7.5, depending upon the source. It’s depressing.
But there is El Niño. This year, it is a very big one. But we haven’t seen much of it. This last month has been interesting in that we’ve had a lot of storms, but they come through and drop a quarter or a half inch of rain and that’s it. We are getting snow in the Sierras, and that is very good indeed. But not as much as we might hope. Still, El Niño is not supposed to really hit until later: January, February, and March. But currently, there is no sign of rain until 5 January at the earliest. And the promised rain has disappointed again and again in the past.
If things don’t change soon, people will float away — not into the sky, but to other areas that haven’t turned into deserts.