Earlier this year I had a few things to say about wet weather, but now that it rained last week and it is raining again on and off this week, I thought I’d share a few more thoughts. First of all, I had to laugh reading my statement “I enjoy walking in a mist or light rain, but I do try to plan walks so that I do not get caught in a downpour” because Friday afternoon found me walking for 45 minutes in the heaviest period of rain of the day. My shoes were full of water by the end, and the rest of my clothing was pretty soaked as well. It had such a long time since it had rained that I forgot that that shoes I was wearing and the tiny umbrella I was carrying were inappropriate for the weather.
Despite getting drenched, I was thinking about how walking in wet weather opens up the opportunity for some unique observations. In terms of looking at architecture, this is when I spend a great deal of time looking at roofs, gutters, awnings, and how houses are protected from the elements. I’ve been particularly surprised by the number of architecturally interesting downspouts, many of which are designed from copper. Local Ecologist talked about rain barrels in a post awhile ago, which are used to collect roof water runoff for watering and other uses. So far, I have not spotted any rain barrels in my walks, but I imagine that this is because most are located at the back of residences. I have spotted several nice-looking rain chains, which are chains attached to a roof to collect water in a pot, basin, or drainage system. An interesting exercise, especially in the hills, is to look for drains that travel under the sidewalk and to the storm drains and then follow the path the water takes from the house to the street.
Observing what happens to water on the street is easy as a walker because (unless you are wearing galoshes) you are probably watching for the places where the water floods at curbs and street crossings! Puddles, potholes, sand bags and other flooding prevention, are all things to look out for during or after a rain. An interesting bit of environmental history that I learned from Richard Walker’s The Country in the City (history of the conversation of the Bay Area’s greenbelt) is that the idea of storm drain stencils originated in Berkeley. If you look down at the drains in Berkeley, you’ve probably notice the bright “No Dumping, Drains to Bay” stencils; this stenciling idea has been adopted by many cities to help remind people not to dump toxic materials into the drainage system that may connect to a bay, river, or ocean depending on where you live.
If you enjoy people-watching, a rainy day is a good opportunity for this activity — rain-gear, umbrellas, reactions to rain, etc. Berkeley and the Bay Area can get a fair amount of rain or not much at all, depending on the year. I don’t see nearly as many people unfazed by the rain as I have on visits to rainy cities such as Portland (Oregon) and Seattle, nor as many people who venture out in the wet weather without an umbrella. And, although I have seen plenty of people braving the rain on bicycles with fenders, I often see the bikes locked up without plastic bags or covers over the seats. I am always on the lookout for other people who seem to be enjoying the rain. Getting a little wet seems way more appealing to me than be in a car in rainy weather or being stuck inside all day, and a warm beverage afterwards (or carried along in a thermos) makes the experience even more satisfying. I am hopeful that more people will get out for walks when it is raining; that is why I made sure to smile and indicate that to others that I was having a good time even as I sloshed along the pavement on Friday.