We are staying with friends who don’t have internet, so I haven’t been able to blog for a while, or read anyone else’s blogs. But we’re home; we’re in that part of the world where we physically feel the most at home, where the hills and the trees and the streets are recognizable. We drive past the bookstores and coffee shops, through the rain-drenched forests, along winding streams.

The day we drove up I-5 into Oregon, we could see the horizon-covering cloud for miles ahead. We crossed the state border, that arbitrarily-drawn line stretching across the Siskyous, and immediately the skies were grey. The temperature dropped 11 degrees. It was funny in both senses; weird and amusing at the same time. I loved it; Donn, native Californian, wasn’t quite so sure.

Today it’s rainy. Our friends say, “Oh what a bummer.” We say, “Look! It’s raining!” The kids dance in it, stick their tongues out, track mud into the house. It’s the rainy season in Mauritania too, but I don’t miss it. I just got an email from my friend there—it’s 118 degrees and sandstorms. July, August and September are humid in Nouakchott; sticky and heavy, oppressive.

It is not uncommon throughout the year to see rain clouds form, see the streaks that mean rain is falling, but the rain doesn’t arrive—it evaporates before it even hits the ground. In the desert, even the air is thirsty. When the rain does come, the first thing you see is a wall of red dust, drawn up from earth to heaven. Suddenly it all falls, choking, swirling, blinding, followed immediately afterwards by the rain bucketing down, pouring down, swirling, choking, blinding. Mauritanians rush for shelter, where they finger prayer beads and close their eyes. Everyone scampers to get any washing in; between the dust-filled wind and the rain, clothes left out will have to be re-washed. The children and I, Oregonians at heart, tend to rush out into it. We can’t help it; we are programmed to love rain. We are instantly soaked, mud-covered. Then, just as suddenly as it began, the rain is gone. It doesn’t drizzle on for hours, gently covering everything in a soft grey mist. In Mauritania, rain is dramatic, not comfortable.

The rain is messy. The ground, dry sand, cracked mud, forms terrible puddles, practically small lakes. Sewer systems overflow. Roofs leak. In the poorer parts of town, a good rainstorm is definitely a mixed blessing at best. Sometimes people lose their homes altogether; their pots and pans bob in the puddles, their flimsy roofs collapse. However, good rainstorms tend to be rare. In a typical year, it might rain 4-6 times and that’s it.

Last year was unusual. On several occasions, it rained for hours. We would sit outside on our porch, looking over our green yard, listening to the rain drip down. The air was steamy with moisture—like we were in a jungle. I’ve actually learned, in Mauritania, to dislike rain—after rain there, you’re miserable. The air is so wet you feel you could wring it out, and your skin is prickly in the heat. But rain is still a gift; it brings grass for the animals to eat, keeps people alive.

Back to today. It’s after lunch now, and the sky is a bit brighter. The drizzle has stopped. In our friend’s front garden, roses and daisies, lavender and lilies drip moisture. The air smells wonderful. It’s great to be home.