It’s been raining in Los Angeles. Finally. It’s been forever since we’ve had any significant rainfall, forever since I’ve had to don my hooded raincoat and walk the dog in a brisk downpour while he shakes himself every few seconds and soaks me even more. L.A. has been bone dry for years. Years.
I’m not exaggerating. The drought conditions in California are so dire that they’re visible from the edge of space. According to a recent analysis of NASA satellite data, it would take 11 trillion gallons of water for California to recover from its drought. That’s enough water to fill 16.7 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.
My son, who just hit double digits, doesn’t remember it raining in L.A. Recently, when we had our first real downpour this year, he looked at me with huge eyes and said, “I didn’t know it rained here.” We bought him his first umbrella (a bright orange tote) and he gleefully ran around the house opening and closing it despite my warnings that he would bring us all bad luck by opening an umbrella inside. (Superstition runs strong and deep in my dark little Italian heart, superstition and grudges. But that’s for another post. And novel.)
You might think that the rain would bring Los Angelenos down, that we’d look at is a depressing hassle, that we who thrive on sunshine resent any kind of weather disturbances.
But it’s wonderful, this rain, this gloom, this clammy, cool mess that has been enveloping our city. My son was home sick on a day that the forecast had promised consistent rain, and when the sun came out, we were both dismayed. “I wanted to be cozy,” he said as he stared belligerently out the window at the sunshine flooding our yard.
So did I.
There’s something glorious about rain, and not just the way it makes plants grow and clears the smog from the air and renews the sense of the city as a place of possibility.
For the writer in me, it’s the darkness, the mystery of rain that appeals to me. I love the heaviness that descends upon me when the rain sweeps the streets in torrents, when I have to rush through it to the cafe where I like to write and then sit there shivering by the window, my hair wet, my clothes sopping–since of course I never have an umbrella when I should–and watch the storm, the darkness, the clouds, the slick roads and sidewalks that promise potential disaster. All of it helps me conjure the disturbing thoughts I sometimes need to get my writing going.
Then again, the aftermath of the rain, the sunshine and the damp, drying roads that have drained of runoff and puddles, the crisp, cool air (never cold since, let’s face it, it’s never truly cold here)–all of that brings on a different mood, a hopeful, playful mood that jumpstarts other stories, makes them go places I wouldn’t have thought of without the bright, slippery, shiny aftermath of a rainstorm.
Which got me thinking.
Umbrellas. I don’t see them in L.A. a lot, but when I do, they trigger all sorts of associations, visceral reactions that get me writing. And, as I discussed above, those reactions can be dark and haunting or bright and lighthearted.
So consider the pictures below, the depictions of umbrellas in all kinds of conditions. Click on them and examine the enlarged images. Pick the one that elicits the strongest visceral reaction from you. Then set your timer for 20 minutes and scroll down for this week’s writing prompt.
Write a scene that includes the following line (either as dialogue or exposition, your choice): “You can hide under my umbrella.”
Start your 20 minute timer. Ready, set, write!
And let me know: Which picture got your juices flowing? Where did it take you? Post a snippet of what you came up with. I’d love to hear from you!
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