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May 1, 2004
Before I opened my eyes, I could hear the rain pouring from the gutter outside my window. Is there a lovelier sound, when one is still under the covers? There was no tea to be had, but there is a little coffee maker in my room. Soon it was chugging away, and the room filled with enticing smell of brewing coffee. Rain outside, light and warmth and coffee inside. Ah.

We begin at 6:30, though, and it's in another building. I'll have to go out in the rain. It is helpful, in situations such as this, for adults to unlearn the dislike of being out in the rain that we learned as we grew up. Kids know that getting wet is fun: they run out into the rain laughing, turn their faces up to it so the raindrops can splash them. We have to learn to recoil from wetness. \\

Walking in the rain without an umbrella is fun. I have done it in many places: a driving rain in Cambridge once, bending the flowers down to the ground, and one in Florida that did the same thing to 100-foot palm trees. The hardest rain I've ever encountered, in Greece once, people walking along in it and laughing at the ridiculousness of being so utterly wet. Countless New York rains, making rivers in the gutters and lakes that stretch across the street.

Across the grass to the next building: I'll be drenched by the time I get there, by drops of water that have fallen for miles to meet me. Water from the clouds that cover the earth, protecting us from too direct an encounter with the great power of a sun too strong for us to endure on our own.

There was water on Mars once, eons ago. Who knows, maybe there still is -- maybe there's a McDonald's one crater over from where one of our robot explorers is parked, and we just don't know it. But maybe not. It seems that there was water once, and that now there isn't. No water, no protective blanket of clouds. And so no plants, no tiny animals. The Mars is confined to a mineral beauty -- the softer things, the living things, cannot survive there.

Life is soft. It pulses and beats. The fluids of it move, and its gases move, in and out, carrying in what life needs and bearing out what it offers. A plants lives on the carbon monoxide we discard, and we breathe in gratefully the oxygen it renders.

And the rain? The water from the sky? It comprises us. Almost the whole of us is made of it. It is time for me to dress and go outside in the rain: a visit home.
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