Two days ago, I sat on my sister's porch in South Carolina, listening to a rooster crow in the woods, and waiting for rain. I expected it to show up soon. The rain, not the rooster.
The clouds looked like water balloons ready to burst, snagging on the limbs of the hickories and magnolias. The breeze was barely a whisper, rustling the leaves of the camellias by the porch.
It was the kind of stillness that comes just before a rain, when the air lays heavy on your skin, thick enough to cut with a butter knife, cool enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck.
I grew up with that kind of stillness, sitting in a porch swing waiting for the gathering storm.
Then I spent 20 years on the coast of California, rearing three children and getting to know a different kind of stillness called fog. The difference is this: You don't wait for fog to arrive. You watch it roll in, swallowing everything in its path. Then you wait, and hope, for it to leave.
Having lived all my life with water vapor of one kind or another, I never dreamed I'd end up living in a desert. Actually, I never dreamed I'd do a lot of things I've done. It's worth waking up each day just to see what will happen next.
Six years ago, soon after we were married, my new husband took a new job in a new (to us) place where fog is unheard of, rain is unlikely and the standard forecast is "abundant sunshine."
It does rain in Las Vegas (it can even snow in winter), but there's not much point in sitting around waiting for it, because by the time it starts, it's over.
That may be overstating it a bit, but not much. I've found lots of things to like about the desert (my hair dries in half the time), but a lack of precipitation is not one of them.
I miss rain. I miss fog, too, but not a lot. It's funny the things we miss as we grow older.
Take my sister, for example. When she was 12 and I was 6, she never wanted me around. She says she did, but she can't fool me. If you want someone around, you don't send her out to look for the dollar you claim you hid in the poison-oak patch.
But that's all behind us now. We live 2,119 miles apart (yes, I Googled it), so we don't get to visit as often as we'd like. But when we're together, it's like rain after a drought, a cool drink when you're thirsty. Some people water your soul.
She thinks I'm crazy for the way I love rain. (She thinks I'm crazy for a lot of reasons.) But if it makes me happy, she wants it, too. So last week, when I went to visit her, we kept watching the clouds, waiting for rain.
It never showed up. Neither did the rooster. We still had fun without them. I could have fun with my sister looking for a dollar in a poison-oak patch.
Yesterday, when it was time to leave, she hugged my neck.
"Don't go, Sissy," she said.
"I'll be back," I promised.
Then I drove to the airport, returned the rental car and caught a flight home to Vegas.
Tonight, when I sat down at my desk to work, a funny thing happened. I heard a rumbling. Imagine my surprise to look out at the mountains and see lightning crackle across the sky.
So I went out on the porch and sat in a swing to wait for the rain. Soon my husband brought a blanket out and joined me.
We sat for an hour, watching the play of lightning, laughing at the roll of thunder, smelling the sweet breath of the approaching storm. Finally, it began to rain. Not a lot, but enough. When it stopped, we kept swinging, soaking up the memory.
Then we went back inside where he watched the Giants lose to the Stinkin' Dodgers.
And I called my sister.
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394 Henderson NV 89077 or at www.sharonrandall.com.)