“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” – John Updike
Last week, we had our first snow in Belfast; I was so excited about the quarter inch of slush, you’d have thought I’d been one of those Americans brought up in the deep south who’d never seen a proper winter. I was abnormally energized for my two mile walk to work that I take each Friday morning, bundled up in my thickest scarf and wool socks, camera at the ready. The hills behind the Harland and Wolff cranes were picturesque, an image of something you’d find on a postcard in Carroll’s, the souvenir shop. It felt like a little piece from home had shown its face that day, reminding me of my many Pennsylvania winters and the euphoria that always accompanies the first snowfall.
There is a shirt in one of the shops that’s become one of my favorites: it has a picture of the four seasons with a sheep, carrying an umbrella in each image. As you could probably guess, it rains a lot in Northern Ireland, but it’s a different kind of rain than what I know from Pennsylvania. The damp lingers in the air after each rainfall, without the heat from an American summer shower to dry up the sidewalks. Torrential downpours are rare, as is the dry, static air that surrounds thunderstorms at home. I don’t mind the consistent, calm mist, or the contrast of green against grey, found in everything living among the hills and skies. The rain is like grace, constantly being poured out in order to give life. Sometimes heavy rain persists, causing strangers to become friends in the shelter of pubs and cafes (cue Rihanna’s “Umbrella”) – or the sun comes out to play and a rainbow appears in the distance, bringing about smiles and conversation on the bus.
During dusk, the grey sky turns into a periwinkle blue, outlining the dark silhouettes of townhouses and bare winter trees. Puddles form differently on the streets, water collecting in cracks of cobblestone and uprooted trees. On evening walks the smell of peat fires permeate the air, and the wet alleyways soak up the orange glow cast by the street lamps; for a second you believe you’ve been transported back in time, before fluorescent lights and concrete sidewalks drained the color from the night.
And when I lay down in bed after another rainy day, I can hear it pitter-patter against my skylight window, bringing with it a breeze whistling through the cracks of the fireplace. A little snow in the winter is a special stranger here for a short visit, but the rain lives right around the corner. The rain is a part of Ireland’s history, its people, its beauty, and its inspiration. Even though I miss the snow in Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t trade the rain on the Green Isle for anything else.
Just for fun, here’s a band from Slovenia doing a rendition of a traditional Irish song “Walk In The Irish Rain” 🙂