I'm swimming in the rain, just swimming in the rain...

In theory, I love the rain. I love the sound on my windowpane, the sensation of it hitting my skin. I love the way the sky glowers and sulks - then opens up and cries. Often shamelessly.

Rain, to me, is about release, about pent-up energy unleashed.

And the world breathes afterward. Flowers lift their soaked heads to find the sun poking its face out again. Everything green seems to reach and stretch - and sigh, now that the storm is over.

Rain transforms. And it doesn't just transform the natural world, although that's definitely part of rain's beauty. I would have an even deeper appreciation for rain if I'd lived through a drought or in a place where rainfall is scarce. I don't know what it's like to pray for rain, to hold my breath as the air changes and wish....

No, the only kind of prayer for rain I've ever offered was as a kid growing up in Florida. Summer days found me in the pool for hours on end - my fingers and toes shriveling to pale raisins as I extended my swim time with pleas for "Just 15 more minutes?"

Next to swimming at night, the rain swim was my favorite. Unfortunately, Florida rains were generally accompanied by the ominous rumbling of a heavy thunderstorm. As soon as we heard the first low grumble in the distance, Mom had us exit the pool and wait it out on dry land.

But sometimes, if the thunder and lightning stayed far away, we'd run to the uncovered portion of the patio and play in the sprinkles. But mostly we sat wrapped in our towels, occasionally inspecting the funny patterns that the patio chairs made on our bare legs and arms.

That's why we prayed for rain. New England rain, I'd call it now. There was something unparalleled about being wet above or below water. Something faintly magical about lying on my back in the shallow end and watching the surface of the water break from underneath.

Rain brought out the frolicking fish in us.

We flipped and dived, like dolphins, leaping out of the water length by length, from deep end to shallow and back again. We wriggled and giggled and grinned as we popped out of the pool, only to return, moments later, equally wet.

Today rain means a messier commute for me, insistent drumming on the skylights that run the length of our office, watching people scoot around puddles as they navigate the watery plaza outside my window. Rain means finding a place for my soggy umbrella on the crowded subway, dodging muddy waves of water as cars careen around the corner in my neighborhood, my sodden grocery bag breaking half a block from my apartment.

And yet I still love the rain - in practice, not just in theory. I love the way it transforms. I love the way it coaxes the seedling and soothes the fragile blossom. I love what it does to the urban landscape, too.

Rain softens. At dusk, between droplets, taillights change to glowing splashes of red. Streetlights twinkle like low-hanging moons. Cars seem driverless, their beaded windows revealing only the faint outlines of the people inside.

The sounds of the city melt into the rhythmic drip, drip, drop of the sky's watery offering.

I think rain softens me, too. I hurry like everyone else, eager to get to work before my umbrella blows inside out or my clothes get a second washing. But I stop, too. The rain makes me stop. For a moment, I'm transported back to my childhood when rain was cause for delight, for dancing. And I remember: Rain is a gift. Flip-flop shod I splash through puddles, smiling to myself.

Why live like an adult? It's raining outside!

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