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We get caught in the rain fairly regularly.

It's stubbornness, really; we want to take the dogs out every evening to walk about three or four miles before dinner. We use the time to decompress, to talk about things, to conspire. So we go out, even under laden gunmetal skies. Only actual present downpours and flashing lightning stop us.

Which means sometimes we shelter under neighbors' eaves and church porticoes. We joke that the rains will hold off long enough for us to toe-touch the point on our route further-est from home. Sometimes it doesn't feel very funny.

Maybe a year ago a neighbor -- who'd more than once seen us straggling back to the house soaking and cold--told us about an app that makes hyper-local forecasts. Another miracle for your pocket, it predicts, with crazy accuracy, that a light rain will begin on your block in eight, no, wait... seven minutes. It will be light. It will cease in about 40 minutes.

It works maybe 98 percent of the time. So we use it. And we still get caught in the rain.

Most of the time it's not so bad. But sometimes the drops are cold, leaden and fraught. They sleek hair and T-shirts. I've picked up a small and trembling dog and carried her during a storm before. But only a couple of times.

Mostly it's only rain. We won't melt. The roof doesn't leak. The river won't overrun its banks. We won't be lost in the flood. Remember the Jerry Seinfeld bit about the weather? "Think it will stay this way?" "NO, no I don't."

Still, we've heard of Noah and 1927, the incantatory paranoia of Randy Newman singing, "They're trying to wash us away;" Johnny Cash's offhand observation that it "looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain."

Four feet high and risin'.

Some archaeologists think that the ubiquitous stories of a great flood--Noah's in the Bible, Gilgamesh's to the pre-biblical Sumerians, Manu's in the Satapatha Brahmana-- are the vestiges of a historical deluge that occurred between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago and spread from the Black Sea over the flood plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the so-called "cradle of civilization."

On the other hand, Géza Róheim, the Hungarian psychoanalyst and anthropologist who argued that myths begin as dreams, once suggested a physiological root for various flood stories. In his 1952 book Gates of the Dream, Róheim impressively cataloged the flood myths of Native American cultures and explained them away as the result of going to sleep with a full bladder.

"Coyote dreamed that water was about to cover the world, but nobody believed him," Róheim writes. "He said, 'There is going to be water all over the world.' It was raining and presently the water began to rise. The people climbed trees ... With the aid of Mole, Coyote creates mountains and then the world was new and he created people ..."

Róheim goes on, telling how these "Thunder people" violate an instruction not to eat a "miraculous trout" that appears in the water near their village. But, being hungry, they do and then fall asleep. In the morning, only children are left in the village; all the adults have been transformed into deer. So the children climb a mountain and it begins to rain again.

"It rained very hard. The world was flooded and there was only a little bit of ground left."

So the children ask an old man what can be done about the water. He says he has no idea, but digs a hole. Everybody goes to sleep again and when they wake up "the world is a beautiful place."

"I emphasize the fact sleeping occurs twice in this story," Róheim writes. "If we take it as the dream of Coyote (who is identical with the old man) the flood is the urethal flood. The fish in the water would be an attempt to transform the danger into the fantasy of being born. But only when he digs a deep hole (phallic) does the water disappear--that is, he wakes with an erection."

Mmm, okay. While Róheim presents as a character from a Monty Python skit with a writing style that's dogmatic and unintentionally hilarious, he does dig up some curious and remarkable details. Every culture, it seems, has a story about a world-destroying (and world-restoring) flood, about a real rain that comes and washes the scum from the streets. Those might very well proceed from our psychology, our fantasies of annihilation.

Anyway, the ground is saturated, and farmers are concerned because they can't plant in soggy ground. Last Wednesday, the Pulaski County School District let students go home early because more rain was on the way.

I'm wondering about those coal cars that got washed into the Arkansas River when the Baring Cross Bridge collapsed in the '27 flood. Are they still down there, Tom Dillard?

One thing about the rain: It doesn't discriminate. It falls on the just and the unjust. It's on us not to be too proud to come in out of it, to carry an umbrella and maintain the windshield wipers.

Baby, the rain must fall.

Editorial on 05/12/2019

Print Headline: PHILIP MARTIN: In the rain, yet again


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