Walking past the Padre Hotel in downtown Bakersfield, a woman uses an umbrella to shield herself from a light afternoon rain on Jan. 7, 2018.

Felix Adamo / The Californian

The first big rain of the year brings relief.

“Ah, rain, finally rain.”

Days before, I’d woken up because I was worried about the drought. Talk about helpless. On your back, in your bed, under the covers, might not be the most effective strategy for solving the drought but 2 a.m. has never been the age of reason.

We’re crazy at 2 a.m., riddled with doubt and the sound of a running toilet can wake us, set us off and render us petrified like wood.

We have become weather-centric. Amateur meteorologists. Living in California will do that to you, four years of drought enhances that expertise and so do the weather apps on our phones, which supply hour-by-hour temperatures so that we will never be surprised again and we can give current updates to friends who have the same weather apps.

Tension builds in California until we get our first rain and when that doesn’t happen before January, we tend to be a hot, dry mess. Some of us take the matter into our hands and solve the problem by waking up at 2 a.m. and trying to shatter the high pressure front with our willful intensity and heartfelt wishes and thus letting the clouds tumble in.

Tuesday, all of this late night, petrified wood work paid off, and we welcomed our first serious rain of the year. “Serious” may be the wrong word — wonderful, life giving, blessed, whatever it was, it was good. (I realize this was not the same experience in Santa Barbara and we are sorry.)

It was the kind of rain that made you want to lie in bed an extra 15 minutes so you could listen to it. There is nothing like the sound of rain when you’re under the covers. No better soundtrack especially when the wind and rain set off the wind chimes and make them sound like Mozart at his most playful.

“Let’s get cozy,” Andrew, our almost-3-year-old grandson, might have said.

“Let’s” because rain invites let’s. There is no sweeter word than let’s. Let the rain fall.

We’re dying, those of us who live in the valley, for texture. Texture is change. Texture is dimension. Right now texture is a rainy season, but two months from now, if all our hard work in the middle of the night pays off, texture will mean green and wildflowers.

Tuesday morning, I got up and put on one of the three rain jackets I have and took the dogs for a walk. Three rain jackets? Why a guy needs three rain jackets in a place like Bakersfield, I’m not sure, but all of a sudden you wake up and you have three. (Note to the kids: Don’t buy any rain jackets. There will be some in the north closet. They are rated for Maine-caliber storms.)

The dogs weren’t quite sure of what to make of the walk, but dogs don’t pass up a walk, even rain-surprised dogs. The storm had loosened another slew of the pecans from the trees down the block. I picked up eight or so. I like pecans and never more than after the first serious rain of the year.

The rain was running respectably high against the curbs. Halfway up the curb. It was almost a flood.

A half-inch, an inch, who knows? We’re in the money. We’re in the game. We’re on the board.

Everything starts with the first real rain. Snow in the mountains, rain down below and blue skies if only for a day or two.

The last of the pecans. These are as sweet as they come.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or (661) 395-7279.

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