Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rain Drops - Traveling

Rain patters on the roof …. Melodic rhythms. On the shingles there is an even patter. Drops landing on the skylight have a splashing sound that echoes ever so slightly. On the gutters more percussion pinging like the xylophone.

I was reading that in moderate rain, such as today, the large drops are 2.6 millimeters in size, the smaller ones probably only 1.0 millimeter. Small raindrops are nearly spherical. Larger ones are flatter somewhat like hamburger buns; the very large ones are shaped like parachutes. Even in a heavy thunderstorm the large drops are only about 4 millimeters in diameter. Now in really serious storms the droplets are even larger but today this is simply moderate rain.

Falling from the clouds, the smaller drops travel slower --- about eight miles per hour--- while large ones may be dropping at a rate of seventeen to nineteen miles per hour.

These tiny drops leave the billowing clouds and splash onto the pines and hemlocks or on the barren branches of the oaks or maples. Some cling for a few moments before sliding down to the leaf-covered ground. Perhaps the first few soak into the ground but soon they are joined by thousands of other tiny raindrops. Collectively they gain momentum and begin their journey down our hillside, sometimes along the top of the leaf mat, at other times rolling under the leaves, even moving them out of the path. Soon these tiny raindrops begin to carve a trench in the leaf mat and then into the earth; a small freshet is born. Rolling over and around rocks they move on down the slope of the hill. The freshet becomes a small stream cutting deeper into the earth and gaining even more speed. It cuts a trench along our garden boxes. Following the contours of the land, it moves past the house and down the driveway. Now this newly formed mass of raindrops open large chuckholes in their wake. Moving, ever moving, they rush on down the hillside to join millions of other raindrops filling the Mongaup River, smoothing rough stones as they race together on their way.

From my perch up here on the hillside, I can hear the sounds of them gathering together in the river. Not a quiet peaceful sound but a roaring as they clash against the rocks. Like the clamor of thousands of voices, each speaking their own language, all that is heard is the roar of sound. Not far from here the Mongaup joins the Delaware River and these millions upon millions of tiny drops now gather leaves, twigs, branches and even logs moving them seaward. They rush and tumble, sending thousands of droplets spraying into the air, only to return to join in the race to the sea. The Delaware River becomes thirteen miles across at its widest point when it joins the ocean in Delaware Bay.

I think of those tiny drops joined together under the ferry as we crossed between New York City and Staten Island. Who can count them? Who can calculate their numbers? --- Certainly not I….


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