The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Quaggy or life in the rain

Rachael Conlin Levy

quag /kwag, kwog/ n. A marshy or boggy place.

Nothing stops for the rain because the rain does not stop. I picnic in a drizzle. I run in showers. I watch soccer in a squall. I go to the farmer’s market in a thunderstorm. My relationship, even my vocabulary, with rain is forever changed. Before living in Seattle, rain was a joyous change in weather. Desert rain is dramatic as clouds block out the sun, electricity rips the sky and rain tattoos the roof, a rataplan rhythm that beckons me outside and so I go, spreading my arms and lifting my head in a welcome dance. Seattle rain is subtle, quiet, restrained, more mist than rain, a spray so light and continuous that it surprises me. I look up to discover that it’s raining, and I’ve been out in it for 10 minutes already. My language is being finessed, refined: a shower is intermittent rain, catching me without umbrella as I lug a gallon of milk and a 3-year-old home from the bus stop; a squall is rain and wind lashing my face as I jog.

I own red rain boots, the first since I was a small girl, and under my umbrella the sky is blue. I like to walk through puddles.

Dagan's rainbow, 2010. Courtesy of The Fridge.

There are new sounds to be associated with rain like the oozing, sucking supersaturated soil, quaggy with water. During winter, every small pore within the soil becomes filled with water. Like a sponge, it appears solid and firm, but walk on it and I leave puddles shaped like my footprint. Sometimes, I think I am supersaturated with sadness because on the surface I appear strong, I smile, I laugh, but press a finger against my skin and it leaves an indentation that fills with tears. I wish I could install a sump pump like the one in my basement. The churn of the sump pump switching on in the basement, an indication that the garage is flooding again, is another sound I link to rain. The pump sits in a dark, dank hole in the basement floor and is covered loosely with a round wooden lid. When rainwater flows into the garage drain, it travels under the concrete floor and into this hole in the floor. When the washing machine drains, it pours the gray water into this hole in the floor. When water seeped through the basement walls, rivulets ran into this hole in the floor. When the water in the hole reaches a certain level, the motor kicks in and the pump churns, churns, churns. It would be nice if it could pump the loneliness out of life.


Rain is the desert’s perfume, it releases the oils that cling to the plants and rocks. In Nevada, I would scoop up a handful of dirt and gently squeeze it to determine if it needed more water. The Seattle gardener conducts the same test, but wants the opposite answer. If a handful of soil balled into the hand and tossed in the air crumbles, it is dry enough to accept seeds. The eager gardener covers her vegetable beds to prevent more rain from falling, but I am happy to leave that job to the sun, to warm and dry the soil and awaken the earthworm and sow bug from their soggy slumber. I inhale the sweet, earthy scent of this slow baking soil and smile.

5 responses to “Quaggy or life in the rain”

  1. And I’ve just returned from the Arizona desert, craving moisture and shade.

  2. anno says:

    The rain you describe would drive me mad, although red boots and a rainbow umbrella might do much to improve matters. Love the pictures.

    Around here, we took a trip sort of south this weekend, saw banks of daffodils in bloom, dogwood and tulip trees, too. It gives me hope. I am craving warm sun and the quiet peace of a summer day with nothing to do but read books and study the sky.

  3. Rachael says:

    Denise, you are a lucky gal.

  4. Rachael says:

    Anno, the gray drives me to tears some days. But it’s also curled my hair, smoothed my skin and saved me from sunburn, so there’s always something in which to be grateful.

  5. Andrea says:

    Love the rainbows…and quaggy is a good word. It will get like that in Maine soon, if and when it warms up a few degrees, some rain might melt the last of the snow and flow over the muddy, saturated ground and raise the rivers. An internal sump pump seems like a good idea…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe: rss | email | twitter