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September 2nd in Seattle, twenty days before the first official day of autumn, and already
the view from my bedroom window is an urban Impressionist landscape of rain smeared rooftops.
We had reached the point in summer when the brown grass withered down to its roots, making yesterday’s intermittent drizzle a reprieve from the cloudless blue. But now as I sit with one of my dogs snoring on my lap, I think of a late summer evening a few years ago when a friend pointed up at the sky as we exited a restaurant and said, “It’s happening again.” Over the passage of a dinner, the chilly veil of damp had descended. Summer had slipped away.
My Florida-born husband likes nothing better than to show visitors just how wrong the
stereotypes about Seattle rain are. He’s quick to quote that we receive less annual
precipitation than either New York or Atlanta, but rarely mentions that on average we received only 170 days of sun a year, far less than the United States average. Over the years that we have lived here, my husband’s love of our cool climate has only grown.“It’s just so comfortable,” he stays, zipping up a fleece-lined, waterproof jacket. Sometimes I agree with him, and others I don’t. My sentiments, like the climate, remain lukewarm.
I do find it interesting though that Seattle’s rain continues to be so much more famous than our spectacular dry summers. On cloudless days in Seattle, the sunshine carries a crystalline quality, as if it is beaming down through a prism. The city is awash in bright colors with blue outlines of mountains tracing the horizons. Staying inside can be painful. I remembering eating lunch on a patio in early summer and thinking that if the weather were so fine everyday, my work productivity would drop to nil. But outside of the Pacific Northwest, no one seems to be aware of this beauty. People are quick to criticize Seattle’s rain and say little else about our city. Any protest I make in defense of our climate is met with reprimand.  Convinced of Seattle’s misery, even my Chicago based family members try to comfort me when I visit, saying it must be so nice to escape the rain, while all around us weather fronts’ clash, cackling with continental fury.
There are some features that make Seattle’s rainy season distinctive, such as the fact it occurs in winter rather than in the summer, in opposition to the Southeast of the United States where August is sultry and rain-soaked while December is mild and dry.  The length of our rainy season is also notable. Extending roughly from October to May, it consumes a larger swathe of our year. In most of the world, where the term rainy season is synonymous with monsoon, our rainy season, with its gentle, irregularly splattering raindrops, wouldn’t even qualify for the title. And unlike in the tropics where storms tend to swell up in the midday heat, our rain clings to the darkness of dawn and dusk. Even in the middle of December our skies often brighten near noon.
I miss the chaotic storms of my earlier life, sky marbled with darkness, rain falling like boxer’s punches, clouds colliding in brilliant roars. The snap of ozone that braces your sinuses during that first inhale of the newly cleansed air. 
On this first day of Seattle rain, the thunder is so docile I struggle to distinguish it from a distant train whistle. But the raindrops are sturdy, steady in their percussion against my rooftop. Water pools at the end of the drive. When I walk my dogs in the afternoon, the pavement will be rainbowed in swirls of oily residue and discarded leaves. It won’t be autumn, but it won’t be summer anymore either. Summer’s bright, burning edges have smoldered down to charcoal wisp. Outside, my dogs will furrow their tiny faces like tired old men, searching out sheltered dryness in the brush as I breath in the cast iron grays and watch the plants drip, unfurling life.

 


Natalie Bicknell’s previous fiction has appeared in Poplorish and Elsewhere: A Magazine of Place. She is a graduate of the University of Washington’s MFA in prose and lives in Seattle where she teaches at Seattle Central College and Green River College.

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