When the first rains fall in California,

As the winter is drawing near,

It is a welcome sight.

The earth is parched and dry

From months of drought

And absorbs the wet greedily,

Like a sponge might do.

People thrill to the feel of raindrops

And walk in it without an umbrella.

We rejoice that our plants and trees

And gardens will grow without the aid

Of a garden hose or sprinklers.

We sleep to the patter of raindrops

And it’s a soothing, welcome sound.

The streets are washed clean and

The city is reborn.


But the rains continue. Gutters overflow.

Streets become flooded as sewers cannot compete

With the onslaught of water and debris.

The intersections are deep in water,

Looking like a misplaced fishpond.

Cars are stranded in the middle

And drivers must be rescued.

The arroyos become raging rivers.

Incautious boys and men climb down to look closer

And are sometimes victims of their curiosity.

The firemen rush valiantly to save them.

We shake our heads and wonder –

How anyone could be so foolish?

Yet every year, the rains come

And someone climbs down into the wash

To take a closer look.


Now the mudslides begin.

Elegant houses perched on hillsides

Fall victim to the falling, sliding earth.

And we wonder why anyone

Would buy a house on the side of a mountain?

Because someone built it there-

You thought it was safe?

And we wonder, and ask ourselves

How is it that

The rains invariably follow a fire

And the land has been made barren

By the blaze.


And if your roof has a leak somewhere,

Now it becomes evident.

You know which houses have leaks; those

Are the ones with blue tarps on top.

Some of the supermarkets have leaking roofs too;

Those are the ones with buckets strategically placed

Throughout the store.

Soon it will stop, we think.

But the rains continue.

Now (if we have them) we dig out

umbrellas, parkas, rubber boots.


Now there are freeway accidents

By the hundreds.

Californians do not know

How to drive in the rain.

Not even if they are from somewhere else.

The TV  Evening News bombards us with

Reports of multiple car accidents and fatalities.

And still the rains fall.


“El Nino” says the weatherman wisely.

As if it makes a difference.

And then one day you awaken

To find the sun is shining.

A new drought is beginning.


Sandra Lee Smith

Previously written April 2008






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