Ms Keogh, who died four years ago this month (June), did not like the rain when we first met. In time, she came to appreciate and share my love of rain.
When it rained, we took long drives through the countryside. We dared streams that overflowed their banks and laid a shallow moat across the roadway. From the dry comfort of the car, we peered into dark green woods by the road, enjoying a beauty the homebody watching television could not conceive. We saw the world in which ancestors lived for millenniums. We saw possums and deer and birds and other wildlife coping, uncomplaining.
There was a time we saw an approaching storm at the horizon. We drove to a hilltop in Tyler State Park and parked for a better view. It was splendid. Before the tumbling grey clouds reached us, we had climbed into the backseats to snuggle. We fell asleep embracing beneath the torrential pinging of drops on the metal roof.
Another time, we were driving late at night to Mount Orab, Ohio. There was hardly anyone else on the road at that hour. Before us a black wall became apparent in flashes of lightning. The radio spoke of tornado warnings. The intervals between bolts and thunder became shorter as we approached furious darkness. Looking at each other, Ms Keogh smiled. We knew each other’s minds. There was excitement, but no fear. She put her hand on mine and said, “So long as we’re together.”
She told me I would like Cardiff, Wales because it rained so often. She was right.
The first Saturday after the Summer solstice this year there were at least four thunderstorms in quick succession. Between each, the sun came out, floating in a blue ocean among white billowing islets. Then the next thunderstorm crashed through Cardiff.
Although it rains often, lighting and thunder are rare to Cardiff. I can count the number of thunderstorms I’ve experience in Cardiff on one hand. They are not as frequent and powerful as those I have experienced in Pennsylvania, where you could have as many as a dozen thunderstorms in a month or two of Summer. Plenty of times, I have been only a few yards from where lightning struck, causing all the windows to thump and setting off car alarms along the block. They are among the few things I miss about the States. The thunder and lightning here is wimpy, yet still satisfying.
I put my relatively new rain jacket to the test in Cardiff’s last deluge. I strolled up the center of Saint Mary Street as everyone else took shelter beneath awnings and in shop doorways. It reminded me of another afternoon when Ms Keogh and I were leaving a concert at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There was a curtain of rain blocking the conservatory exit. No one was departing. I, however, leaped into the downpour and dashed to the gift shop. I came back with an umbrella, the canopy being a print of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies”. I received accolades from the other women as they poked their husbands’ ribs and complained, why couldn’t you have done the same?
The umbrella is here, hanging from a closet door handle. Ms Keogh brought it on the Queen Mary 2 crossing, only to discover Cardiff is where umbrellas come to die. Cardiff can be windy, so she never used it here. There was an empty lot alongside the railway overpass we called the Brolly Graveyard. They collected there, twisted and broken. The vision launched Ms Keogh into creating a photo-essay of dead umbrellas, a project she never completed.
Averaging 149 rainy days a year, Cardiff is officially the wettest city in the United Kingdom. And this is where I will stay.