Editor's Almanac

Day 2, Category 2, Atmo River

by | Feb 1, 2024

rain on a window by Anant Jain.

Photo by Anant Jain on Unsplash

There are sounds in my body memory.
The sounds of rain.
Decades of listening.
As a child, as a mother, as a farmer.

The familiar ping and plop of water hitting surfaces.
The sharp smack on the nylon of my umbrella.
The drumming on the tar on my roof.
The sudden glancing rap of rain pushed by a gust of wind against my windows.
The gentle rush of a light drizzle.
Mostly individual, distinguishable sounds.
Nothing like last night.

I sleep in a room facing north with tall bay windows.
The sounds last night, as the atmospheric river advanced through my city, kept waking me from my flannelled dreams.
More rush and gush and whosh than pitter patter.
A roar and swell, then all quiet, then again.
The sound of thousands of leaves flattened, all at once, on the tree outside my window.

My vocabulary fails me.
There isn’t a clef or thesaurus for these new sounds.
Nothing in my body memory or AI up to the job.
Nothing but a gut punch every time I hear these sounds now…
What have we done?
It sounds all wrong…

I hear the hiss of the first car doing a slow wet roll down the street before daybreak.

In my slippers, I part the curtains. Look out. After all the drama of TV news and weather alerts last night, after all those strange night sounds, what will I see?

A ferris wheel, already brightly lit, of all things.
A cruise ship entering the gate.
Signs of our human ingenuity under a dark cloud.
The ship must have had a helluva night out there I think.
I did.

morning after atmo river scene

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About The Author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto

is KneeDeep’s managing editor. She is a Bay Area environmental writer, former editor of Estuary News magazine, and a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011). For the last decade, she’s been reporting on innovations in climate adaptation on the bayshore. She is also an occasional essayist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco. See her work at http://bayariel.com.