Dogs may run and hide and toddlers cover their ears, but when I hear thunder followed by a sudden rush of rain I head for the porch to enjoy the show.
The other day, rain was coming down in torrents, a pounding tattoo on the metal roof. I settled in on the porch floor to listen to the rain while preparing Florida sand pears for pear sauce. It was the perfect combination of activities. Unlike commercial bosc or Bartlett pears, which soften as they ripen, mature sand pears remain hard with a tough outer skin that, if left intact, gives the sauce an unappealing gritty consistency. Removing that skin with a sharp knife is tedious work but cutting off the skin while listening to the sound of the storm passing through eases the tedium.
I didn't have an iPod with me. I wasn't listening to NPR. The computer was in the other room as was my phone. I It was just me and the pears, a sharp paring knife, the rain and a misty breeze blowing through the screens. Delightful.
As I sat there on the floor peeling fruit, my mind wandered back to our early years in Florida when our children were little and used to play in the rain. What fun they had (all of us!), running outside and splashing in puddles. We scooped up rainwater in buckets to throw at each other. We poured it on our hair. We laughed as we played. We didn't care how wet we got because the warm air made the rain refreshing. Summer downpours in Florida are quite different from their Northern counterparts. They don't chill or cause shivers. They're fun to play in, to listen to and observe.
That difference was reinforced a couple weeks ago when Ralph and I exited the airport in Hartford, Conn. As we stepped out of the air-conditioned terminal, we walked into a chilling rush of summer rain. Until that moment, I had forgotten how unpleasant it could be to stand outside in rain. It was August, for heaven's sake, and we were in Connecticut, not Canada. We had not anticipated, packed or worn appropriate clothing for cold weather but, nonetheless, that's what we got. Cold, rainy, shiver-inducing weather — at least that's how it seemed to a couple of spoiled Southern transplants who had come to rely on the comfort of warm precipitation.
Back on the porch with the sand pears, I smiled at the thought of how dependent I've become on summer downpours being experiences to enjoy and not dread. I like the way the raindrop's loud percussive beat drowns out otherwise omnipresent swirl of digital sounds. I appreciate the way the wind blows a refreshing wet mist through the screens. I enjoy anticipating the likelihood (very strong!) of a rainbow soon to follow.
Before long, the pears were all peeled and cut into small pieces. I poured them into the crockpot to cook together with a little lemon juice and ginger. The rain too had ended, or at least abated. There was a softer sound on the metal roof as fewer drops landed with less intensity than they had before.
That's something else I like about summer rainstorms in Florida — they come on strong and end quickly. Before long, it's sunny again, hot, humid and sticky. But that's OK, I don't mind the heat. It will rain again soon and I since I have more sand pears to peel (my hands get tired if I peel too many at once), I know where I'll be when it does. I'll be out in the porch, on the floor, unplugged from technology — savoring the sound of rain falling down.
Sherry Boas can be reached at email@example.com. Her columns can be found online at OrlandoSentinel.com/lake.