Can Rain Hold Us Hostage?

Can Rain Hold Us Hostage?

I Barely Made It Through England's Wettest Year. Now El Niño Looms Over My California Dream.

We’ve bought sand bags at Home Depot, installed new gutters, and patched up the roof of our house in Los Angeles. We’ve asked a plumber to check our industrial-grade sump pump and looked into flood insurance. I’ve even been pestering my husband to spray Thompson’s Water Seal over a leaky patch on the stucco wall outside our kitchen.

Now we’re just waiting for the next iteration of this “Godzilla” El Niño that threatens to send torrents of rain over California until March. As I check the weather report every morning—something I haven’t done in many, many years—I keep thinking: Have we done enough to prepare for these storms? Have we gone overboard? And, Didn’t I come to California to escape all of this?

I know rain. I lived through the wettest consecutive 12 months on record in England, a place famous for waterproof …


Rain’s Drumbeat Sets Poetry in Motion

Rain’s Drumbeat Sets Poetry in Motion

Dreary Weather Gives Verse Rhythm and Flow

Living in a desert city like Las Vegas, you can forget about rain—not as in “give up hoping for,” though sometimes that, too, but actually forget. Your umbrella gets buried in the closet along with table leaves and old bike helmets. The rare morning when you open the door to gray drizzle, it’s a little flustering: an improbability realized and you’re wearing the wrong shoes.

Preparing to face the elements here usually means sunblock and a hat. A colleague in the English department at UNLV teaches the concept of “the sublime” by telling students to walk outside in summer. Need to be reminded of human mortality in the face of nature’s power? A blast of dry heat will …


The Slimy Underworld That Emerges After the Rain

The Slimy Underworld That Emerges After the Rain

After a Good Soak, the City Comes Alive with Rare Snails, Poisonous Mushrooms, and Slug-Like Molds.

You know that earthy smell that comes just as it begins to rain after a dry spell? It has a name. Scientists call it petrichor.

When I smell petrichor, I get excited: Rain is a personal and professional obsession. I begin keeping close tabs on the window while I check weather reports for the forecast. As the manager of citizen science (getting the community involved in scientific studies) at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, I start making a list in my mind to share with others. What mushrooms and slime molds and snails and slugs will I be likely to find? I imagine all of the places I should check to find these uncommon organisms that only come out when the soil is moist. …


Polly Magoos

Polly Magoos

For Julien Poirier

Old Holborn yellow, Zig Zag “Le Zouave”
Barcelona chocolate, Kronenbourg pint
four rose for you, heated terrace
rain street, an ambulance passes by
Turkish Techno, European tourists
Notre Dame, smoke in the air
French David went to Miami and L.A.
hated Hollywood, sold himself in movies
I think of walking to Bois de Boulogne
but was told not to go after dark
David shames me for not visiting the Louvre
or looking out from the Eiffel Tower
imagining Paris 100 years ago, the boats
at night, I show him my drawings
he hates to bother me and my writing
but finally someone talked to me …

Banner photo courtesy of Mary Crandall.

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