Don’t let rain stop you from going outdoors

“And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain.” – John Fogerty

As I write this morning, I can hear the spattering sound of cars passing over wet blacktop. It rained hard an hour or so ago and I have the window pushed open a few inches in my study.

When the soft breeze lifts intermittently, the branches of the birches, aspen and maples in the front yard rise and fall, sending collected rainwater tumbling down into the understory.

The descent produces a gentle patting sound as the falling water droplets hit the upturned leaves of shrubs, younger trees and perennial garden plants growing below.

The aftermath of a summer rain shower also produces a quieting effect – at least for a little while – that descends over almost everything.

Much of this quiet can be attributed to fewer people outdoors doing things if it is misting or drizzling, has rained or is about to.

Watching weather forecasts on television over the holiday weekend, I was struck by the unenviable position the forecasters are put in.

It seems to me that much of their job is to apologize to, and empathize with, the audience for the conditions Mother Nature is providing.

And that audience can be tough.

Its members hold no qualms or hesitance about shooting the messenger.

We don’t want it too hot or too cold. We recognize that we need the rain, but not on Tuesday when we’re planning a picnic or on Wednesday when want to cut the grass or Thursday when …

I have heard more than one person say they want it to rain only at nighttime when they are asleep. Many people leave their homes for several months to avoid the snow and many others would do the same if they could afford it.

If you listen to conversations, humans spend a significant amount of time discussing, or complaining about, the weather. Oddly, as much as we might complain, we are excessively eager to find out what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.

Weather forecasters are aware of this.

They dole out their weather predictions like some parents let their kids eat their Halloween candy stash – only sparingly, one piece at a time.

Sometimes, there is a headline tease of the weather forecast – especially if there is something especially good or bad to report and there usually is.

To me, it never seems as dramatic as they make it sound. We don’t live in an area subjected to hurricanes, killer tornadoes or earthquakes.

Then there is the tease of the full forecast presented during the first news segment, so stayed tuned whatever you do. Typically, there is one more tease before the actual weather segment, but first, stay tuned to these commercial messages from our sponsors.

Finally, after the weather report has been delivered, there is often banter at the end of a news broadcast where the anchors talk about the weather coming up over the next few days.

They often mention how they are going to take advantage of those predicted mild temperatures by eating a hot dog at a fundraising barbecue or going to buy a shovel before tomorrow morning’s snow showers hit.

It’s all very strange how much we seem to be tied to weather forecasting, especially when you consider how often weather forecasters are wrong.

For me, I love to be outside when its raining or snowing. There are a lot of cool things I would miss if I didn’t go out during those times.

For one, the fish bite better in the rain.

Another example would be this morning’s rain.

When I slid the window open, a cool breeze met my face and my ears perked up immediately as I heard a house wren singing loudly from his perch right out there in the open, in the rain.

The wren was joined by a cardinal singing from a short distance away. These birds seemed to be happy it was raining, and they wanted anyone listening to know about it.

The sound of falling rain can also produce a quieting, calming effect on us, like listening to white or pink noise when we’re trying to sleep.

After the rain, in those quieter moments, the sounds of the forest – like the cawing of crows the peeping of frogs or the motion of winds fluttering leaves on the trees – tend to seem amplified.

To really get the effect, snap a dead twig in your hands and listen to the sound carry.

I went out to photograph some wild irises this week. Taking pictures of flowers is another thing that is far more effective and productive when you do it either during a light rain or afterwards, while the skies are still gray.

The colors are often much deeper taking wildflower pictures under these conditions, rather that under the bright and direct rays of the sun, which can wash out color from your flower photos.

My wife loves irises. I asked her if she wanted to come along on my drive to the woods where I knew about a nice little stand of those beautiful purple flowers.

She agreed. I undersold the event by telling her there were probably a couple dozen irises at this one place.

We headed out after dinner and headed south with the sun starting to dip down behind the trees. It was a beautiful evening. The waters on inland lakes were still and reflective.

I took an alternative route to reach our destination which took us to a bridge over a showy stretch of rapids on one of my favorite rivers. This is another one of those places that I love to visit, but only seem to be able to get to every two or three years.

Our trip on this evening was a great night to be there. With the help of recent rains, the water level was up for summertime flow, but still far beneath the incredibly high waters and tremendous flows of springtime.

The sun was still high enough to allow me good light to shoot in on the river.

We traveled a little farther down the road and stopped to look at a hen turkey crossing the road with a handful of chicks. They all disappeared into the tall bracken ferns and undergrowth off the driver’s side of the road.

We could hear them making soft clucking and peeping sounds.

Our drive took us snaking around the rims of several lakes and down along a narrowing dirt road until we reached the irises.

I pulled over and pointed out the purple flowers just outside Liana’s window on the passenger side of my Jeep. Rather than the two dozen flowers I prepared her for, there were more than 100 irises growing in this one very small wetland area.

Despite those recent rains, this boggy area was dried out enough that I could walk barefoot out on the reed masses and mud and not get more than a little bit moist between my toes.

It was a thrill for both of us to see these incredible wildflowers at the height of their glory. I took a bunch of pictures.

Continuing on, we saw several small, young cottontail rabbits along the roadsides or in the middle of the road. There were also little fluttering patches of butter-yellow butterflies, called sulphurs, grouped around mudpuddles.

There were many butterflies on the wing that evening, including several different species. There were a also a high enough number of deer flies to keep my wife in the Jeep while I took a few casts and one of the brooks along our way.

More rain showers were predicted for that evening, but all we saw were skies burnt orange and rusty from the Canadian wildfire smoke that continues to cloud our views and mess with my respiratory system.

We had stopped in one of the towns on the way home and got a double-dip, key-lime-pie-flavored ice cream cone. It was quite delicious.

It hasn’t rained now in a couple of hours. I have closed the window because it is getting hot and muggy outside again.

There’s more rain predicted for this weekend.

The older I get, the more I am learning to try to take things like weather, and other changes beyond my control, as they come.

If it rains, I will take my rain jacket when I go outdoors. Under threatening skies, I won’t cast my fishing rod toward a thunderhead. If it snows, I will dress warm and wear my boots – basic commonsense things.

As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Outdoors North is a weekly column produced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on a wide range of topics important to those who enjoy and appreciate Michigan’s world-class natural resources of the Upper Peninsula.


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