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The Most Wonderful Time of Year 🌞 ➡️ 🌧

The Most Wonderful Time of Year 🌞 ➡️ 🌧

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

The summer plants are dying, or at least fading away. After a season of production, they’re slowly disappearing into compost. Brown leaves blow about and crunch underfoot.

Clouds of dust swirl around the dogs when they play chase in the garden, powdering them with invisible grains that dull the color of their fur and our floors. It’s noticeably cooler, but the sun continues to shine, sometimes through a screen of wildfire smoke.

According to my weather station, it has rained 0.83 inches since August 1st and it’s not an anomaly. Summers in the PNW are almost always bone dry, in part, because we don’t get hot enough to produce thunderstorms that would be a reliable source of rain.

Annual precipitation for our county

For weeks and weeks at a time, the sun shines bright and dries everything to a crisp, including the people.

I love a nice day in the sun, but by this time of year, I’ve had enough. The world outside is a tinderbox that needs moisture before it’s too late. Wildfire is our biggest risk. If we can get through September, we can relax with the knowledge that the rain will finally arrive in spades.

Right now, I’m a little anxious, or maybe just full of anticipation. Each year, I plan for the famous PNW rain to arrive by October 15th. Then, storm season commences and the sun disappears along with the risk of fire. It’s fascinating how quickly and reliably it happens.

I plan on the transition each year, and for now, I wait and watch for signs of change. The weather models are unsure of what will happen. It’s like the dry PNW summer is battling the north pacific currents trying to push into Washington for the winter. Forecasts this time of year often say there is a 58% chance of rain, which is frustratingly noncommittal. They might as well admit they have no idea.

It’s the forecast of rain that feeds my anticipation. I want commitment and confidence. I want a sure thing. For the last couple of days, I’ve been watching a prediction for rain on Wednesday. On Sunday, the Wunderground app showed an 80% chance of 0.20 inches of rain and it allowed me to relax. Rejoice! It’s coming! 🙌

Then, I checked the weather as soon as I woke up on Monday. Overnight the forecast dropped to a 74% chance of 0.11 inches. It ruined my day. 😞

This morning it was 68% of 0.04 inches. 🤷🏻‍♂️

At the time of publishing this afternoon, it’s down to 49% of 0.03. 😡

I’ve seen this happen so many times. The models get you all hyped and hopeful, only to crush your dreams. At this point, I expect a perfectly sunny day on Wednesday without a drop of rain. What have we done to deserve this? Why do they torment us?

Perhaps, I am addicted to the drama of not knowing. Or, maybe I’m just fascinated by the machinations of weather and the difficulty of getting it right. What gets me through is the confidence that the autumn rain will arrive… eventually. It always has.

As much as I complain about the sun at the crunchy end of summer, I love and look forward to this time of year. As I’ve written here many times before, I believe happiness lives in anticipation. Right now, it’s bright and dry and the summer weather seems interminable. But I have so much to look forward to. The cool misty air, the sound of rain on the roof, and fires in the fireplace. I miss seeing our property in its more natural state: wet and verdant. For me, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

The Westward Wind

The Westward Wind

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

Back in 2017, when we lived in the yurt-shaped house, we noticed something interesting about warm summer evenings. Just before dusk, a cool and consistent wind blew out toward the water where it created subtle waves as it landed. The wind would last into the night and be gone by morning. When we moved to the guest house during construction, it happened there too. Summer evenings ended with a cool wind whipping to the west.

The Westward Wind Hitting the Water (timelapse)

The wind didn’t seem connected to weather patterns. It was smaller than that; a phenomenon that was too localized to be in a weather report. I asked our neighbors about it and they shrugged their shoulders. It’s just something that happens and always has. The more I watched the westward wind, the more evidence I saw that it was shaping the landscape around us. The tall trees on the south side of our property were bent toward the water. 

Whatever the cause, the wind was reliable enough to influence the design of Flattop. A cool and reliable evening breeze at the end of a warm day should not be wasted, so we looked for ways to use it. The big idea was to use the wind to flush out the warm summer air out of the house and replace it with cool evening air. To make that happen, we added operable windows on the east and west sides. Today, I’m happy to report that the system is working. The westward wind is like an air conditioner that kicks on after sunset. All we have to do is open the windows. 

This is a prime example of why it helps to live in a location before building there. Wind, sun, and rain are free resources that can be put to work. Observing them for a couple of seasons before breaking ground can be helpful in making a design more efficient.

Despite all the watching and planning, we still didn’t know why the westward wind was happening. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when we hosted a small dinner party that included a retired Coast Guard officer. We talked about the wind and he said, “Oh, that’s a land breeze”. I had heard of a sea breeze before, but never a land breeze. I had to learn more.

What I found is a simple idea. The westward wind is caused by a difference in the air temperature over the land and the sea. When the sun goes down in the summer, the air over the ground cools relatively quickly as heat rises upward. The air over the water cools more slowly. This difference in temperature (and pressure) is what causes the wind. Cool air flows out to the water at a low elevation as warm air rises and circulates back to the land.

What I’ve been calling the “westward wind” was not specifically westward at all. I just happen to live in a place with a large body of water to the west. Maybe it’s really the “waterward wind?” That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Still, it’s probably better than “land breeze” which is rather unremarkable sounding. I’m sticking with the “westward wind” for now. 

The sea breeze, which we don’t notice as much, is the opposite. Sea breezes happen during the day and blow from the sea toward the land. This is because the air over the land warms more quickly than the air over the water when the sun is out. It’s also the name of a cranberry, grapefruit, and vodka cocktail that was popular in the 80s. It’s not surprising that there is no “land breeze” cocktail, because who would order that? Does it come with a garnish of dead leaves? 

For now, rest assured that the mystery is solved and we’ve all learned a bit more about the weather.

Hibernating in the PNW ☔️ 🦠

Hibernating in the PNW ☔️ 🦠

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


This morning I donned a puffy jacket and took the dogs out to our little ramshackle dog run on the side of the guesthouse. Once we were outside, I noticed something odd. The little area of concrete where I stand and wait for the dogs was dry and lightly colored. There was no drip from the roof onto the top of my head. It was chilly and windy, but dry.

That sounds unremarkable. But for this time of year in the pacific northwest, dry concrete is hard to come by. I noticed the same thing when we lived in Seattle. We get so used to wet roads and sidewalks that we notice when they’re dry. They seem so fresh and clean.

I’ve always looked forward to the arrival of the rain in October of each year. After a long, sunny summer, I’m ready for a more interior lifestyle. I want to build fires and light candles and finish the evening with a thumb of whisky. It’s the season of hygge, the Danish tradition of coziness and togetherness in winter. 

This winter is different for most people, but not because of the weather. Usually, the refuge from the rain is not only the warmth of home, but people. I have such fond memories of dinner parties and game nights that felt extra cozy with rain beating on the skylights and fire in the fireplace. We will surely return to those days, but for now, they seem far away.

We recently had a spontaneous evening beer on the porch of a local brewery. We hadn’t been there since the pandemic started and purchased beer from a walk-up window into what was formerly a small indoor bar. It was pleasantly dark and we sat on cold wooden benches, between puddles and drank a pint that remained cold and refreshing from top to bottom. It felt like a treat. Just doing something, even in the cold and without friends, felt like a step in the right direction. Look at us! We’re not at home! 

When we returned, the dogs greeted us and we settled in, just like any other night, snug in our chairs. I’ve started to think about our little guest house as a den, where we wait out the winter, the pandemic, and the house project. 20 months in, it feels like home, but I’m sure we’ll look back on these days with a sense of wonder. It’s one thing to be quarantining. It’s yet another to be quarantining in a tiny apartment set on 18 isolated acres, on a rural island, during a PNW winter, while building a house. 

We’ll hibernate for a bit longer and then emerge ready for spring, which can’t arrive soon enough. My only concern is emerging with thicker insulation than when it started. We won’t be alone. 

For now, from our den, we can anticipate a spring spent living in the house we’ve thought about for so long. It’s hard not to imagine quarantining there instead of the guest house. Part of what’s missing today is a place to be outside that’s comfortable and dry. It would be the only way we could have had friends over this winter. Of course, that space exists just down the road, but it’s not quite ready.  

Now is the season of anticipation for us all. No matter what happens with public health, the days will get longer, the temperature will slowly creep up and the flowers will bloom. We can always count on the change of seasons to change us, too. When we finally emerge from the winter, we’ll have lived through a dark period of history that will serve as a contrast to the light. This hibernation is one for the ages.

My hope is that there is still time to salvage the 2020’s. After a rough start, I’m hoping that all the uncertainty and fear will be replaced by a widespread sense of hope and optimism that’s been pent-up for too long. Once it’s released, the 20s may roar, just as they did a century ago. I, for one, will be ready. 

The Inspiration for the Name “Ready for Rain” 🌤🌧

The Inspiration for the Name “Ready for Rain” 🌤🌧

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


Ready for Rain is the title of a popular essay I wrote a few years back (included below). To me, the name relates to the season changes of the Pacific Northwest and a perspective Sachi and I share. Below is the original essay:

Ready for Rain – Why Seattleites Crave the End of Summer

Ready for Rain

It’s raining in Seattle today and tomorrow. This should come as no surprise to those who know the reputation of this part of the world. But in fact, this rain is special. It’s the first storm of the year; a harbinger for a change of season that strikes at the core of how it feels to live in the Pacific Northwest.

You see, this time of year, I want it to rain for days. I want an atmospheric river to roll off the Pacific and slam Seattle with precipitation. I want to look at the weather map and see greens, yellows and oranges. Thankfully, I live in a place that makes the timely arrival of rain an absolute certainty.

It’s not simply the arrival of rain, but the transition to a different environment and way of life. The drear has a certain dark beauty; a low-contrast softness. There’s no need to squint or close the blinds. Even the sound of the rain on our house is music to my ears, a lullaby.

This is my 15th Seattle winter and I anticipate the return of rain more each year. For me, it provides a sense of relief, a return to normalcy, a time to get back to real life and get things done.

To understand why this is the case for so many Seattleites, it helps to understand the reality of Seattle weather.

Seattle weather

Our summer really begins on July 5th when, like clockwork, the darkness is replaced by remarkably consistent sunshine and warmth. Our average high in July and August is around 75 degrees and the sun persists for weeks.

Seattle is often drier than Phoenix in this period because we don’t get hot or humid enough to have many thunderstorms. It’s glorious.

drier than Phoenix

All that comes to an end around October 15th, when after three months, the sun yields, once again, to clouds and rain. This season brings with it a constant state of dank mossiness. Precipitation falls, but it often seems less like rain and more like a cool mist that surrounds you. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Seattleites rarely use umbrellas (it’s how we spot visitors). A good Gore-tex jacket is the standard.

state of dank mossiness.

Between the misty days, winter storms can produce inches of rain in the city and feet of snow in the Cascade mountains. Mount Baker Ski Area, less than three hours from Seattle, holds the world record for annual snowfall with 95 feet of snow over 1998–1999. Accordingly, Seattleites adopt a more indoor and/or ski-mountain lifestyle that lasts into spring.

Mount Baker

April and May bring warmth and longer days, but the cloudy darkness often seeps into June.

Relief — Sweet But Fleeting

After months and months of darkness and rain, it’s no surprise that the arrival of summer sunshine is a huge relief for everyone in Seattle. We’ve earned it and a whole new lifestyle can begin again.

But the arrival of summer sun comes with an obligation, a duty to make up for lost time, a need to squeeze every drop of fun from a few months of long warm days. It’s a feeling of pressure, pressure to make the most of a fleeting resource.

In some ways, summer in Seattle is like a romantic long-distance relationship. Think about it this way:

Two lovebirds, separated by geography and time, plan a glorious weekend together. For weeks, they plan diligently for making the absolute most of their limited time together. It will be nirvana.

When the day finally comes, it’s amazing. They are so relieved to finally, at long last, be together. Over delicious meals, long walks and private time together, their enjoyment becomes mixed with anxious feeling that gnaws at them.

A kind of pressure builds. The tick-tock of the weekend clock gets louder. Every minute they both feel the need to do more, to make the weekend that much more memorable. They ask:

Is this what we should be doing? Is he/she having fun? Are we making the most of our limited time together?

The pressure has a way of adding stress to what is supposed to be a glorious, carefree experience together. By the time the weekend is over, tearful goodbyes lead to a bit of relief. The pressure goes away. What’s done is done.

And so it is with summers in Seattle.

Seattle’s short summer is a kind of long distance relationship we have with the sun. We spend months anticipating its return and all the time apart creates a real sense of urgency. Every summer day, bright sun arrives around 5:30am and whispers to me “I won’t be around for long, make today count!

In July and August the whole city comes alive. Sundresses appear in parks along with the lilies. Instagram becomes full of wilderness hikes, boats and BBQs. It is glorious… and the pressure starts to build.

boats and BBQs

We Ask: Am I taking advantage of this time I’m given? What can I do to truly make this summer special?

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

By September, the shine of the sun isn’t new but the pressure remains. Grass turns brown, trees droop and something becomes clear. Like a weekend with a distant lover, no amount of planning or activities will actually be enough to truly take advantage of the time we have with the sun. Nirvana is always just out of reach. But we try and try.

trees droop

For me, the pressure is really a feeling of guilt. When the sun is out, I feel guilty about being indoors because a summer day indoors is a summer day wasted. By the end of September, I just want to sit on the couch and watch a movie and not feel guilty about it. I want to wake up without the pressure.

Let the clock tick — I am ready for rain.

I am ready for rain.

Thankfully in October the rain returns and with it, a sense of relief. I can finally relax. I can feel better about being indoors. I can wake up and feel warm at home in front of the fire on cold wet days.

The best way to describe the feeling is “coziness”. Home feels like a refuge from the elements; a place to relax and live life more slowly. Coffee seems to taste better when it’s raining.

Each Better Than the Last

The long, dark Seattle winters do something to me. They make me forget what it’s like when the days are long and warm. The bare trees make it hard to imagine the lush Seattle spring.

And then, just as it becomes too dark for too long, the promise of a sun-kissed rendezvous returns and the great maximization begins again — along with the pressure. It’s a cycle I’ve come to love.

I do look forward to the sun, but it ends just in time, because in my heart, I also love the rain.