Friday, July 04, 2003

The Problems with Precipitation

I am used to this sort of American weather prediction ability that I must have. Corrie discovered it four years ago with our friend Erin, here in Italy, when they used to always bring the rain with them when they went outside. Used to our advantage, we could probably win lots of money in bets (Will it rain today? I don't know--are the Americans leaving the house?). But instead we have just learned to always pack an extra shirt and a change of socks when we go out.

Today was our excursion into the mountains. Once a week the Civitanova beach job actually leaves the beach, giving the kids one full day either in the mountains or at a water park. Today was the first full-day excursion and, waking up this morning to fierce wind, I looked outside only to be greeted by storm clouds. I sighed. Just my luck. It was going to rain, and hard. I knew it.

It happened just as we were making our way back from a hike to the Valley of the Monsters. We passed under the passageway of a factory, and the rain began to come down hard. We kept the kids there, sheltering them under the passageway, and some gentile Italian dropped down two sheets of plastic for us to use to cover our heads. It was fun for a while--all of us underneath this layer of plastic, laughing at our faces pressed against the transparent sheets and the way the water ran over us but did not get us wet.

But it was only a minute like this, laughing, before it started to hail. That's right--hail. It's the beginning of July, and it is hailing in Italy. The big red factory doors opened to welcome in 50 grateful, freezing Italians (and one American, often mistaken as Chinese), and we huddled inside, hurrying to make room for everyone and trying not to break any parts of the paper-making machinery.

We were back outside within ten minutes, and somehow the hailstorm had turned into a sun-filled, blue sky morning. We started over again, hiking back up through the town and to our lunches, and you could hear birds singing. And children laughing.

I laughed too, because maybe this is just how it is in Italy. No one questions hail in July here, and no one is in awe at the way a day can turn from one extreme to another. Painful precipitation becomes brilliant blue sky. Nature, in moments of brutality, shows herself in an instant to be filled with compassion. That is Italy, as wide fields of sunflowers, like stretches of sea, turn their heads to follow the movement of the sun.



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