Rain and "Rain"

Things have been pretty dry here in Northern California lately. The rain we count on during the winter months has failed to materialize in any meaningful quantity for three straight years. However, over the last several days storms have been rolling in off the Pacific with regularity providing good reason for optimism. Our modest yard is saturated; our lemons trees are bending under the weight of bunches of wet, ripe lemons; the meadows on the slopes of the local hills have turned green; water is filling the culverts between roads and vineyards; and reservoirs are slowly rising to levels that provide a tantalizing glimpse of an end to the drought.

It's past two in the morning, and it's raining as I write. The air is mild for December, a pleasing result of what's referred to as "the Pineapple Express," bands of rain-laden subtropical air reaching us from the vast central Pacific. It's perfect weather for reading. And, if you'll allow me to presume, it's perfect weather for reading Somerset Maugham's "Rain." The story is set in Pago Pago and it's a jarring achievement from one of the 20th century's finest storytellers. Let me warn you: it's a story of terrifying, relentless cruelty that delivers a crushing blow to sanctimonious moralizing like nothing else I've ever read. If you think you're up to the challenge of such a tale, sit down, read it from start to finish, and it'll without a doubt be the most interesting thing you do today, and maybe this year. Let me know how it goes. In the meantime, I'm going to simply enjoy the rain and the hope its near-constant presence brings.