If you are not from Hilo, how do you react when it starts to rain? Do you pick up your pace like I used to? Make a dash for your car or an awning? Do you kind of contract – pull your shoulders in, try to cover your hair?
If you are from Hilo, how do you react? Well, it all depends…If it’s that light, misty rain, you probably don’t even react. You just walk through it like it’s not even happening. If it’s more steady, maybe you quicken your pace but no need RUN for goodness sakes! If it’s verifiably raining, maybe you’ll break out the umbrella. But not that cute little Totes kind. You gotta go big, like golf size, because if it is raining hard enough to bust out the umbrella, there is likely some wind blowing along with it, forcing it sideways. And if it starts pouring and you get caught in it, well, you’re committed. You get drenched so fast there is no logical sense to run and possibly slip in the puddles that materialized.
The relationship we have with our rain in Hilo influences what shoes we wear (closed-toed when you know you’ll be walking across a parking lot), what supplies we keep in the car (towel to dry yourself, aforementioned golf umbrella), and how we plan for events (gotta have tent!).
Kids here grow up playing in it (literally, as in, go play in the rain or game’s on until you hear thunder) and adults figure out how to survive days of it on end (dehumidifier + candles + upbeat music).
In Hilo, no matter how sunny it is or how clear the skies, you’ve got to bring the clothes in off the line by 2pm and never crack your car windows (two lessons I can’t seem to remember) because the rain will come. The other day, we were so hot sitting outside at Starbucks and as soon as we came in, it started pouring. What? From where?!
There are squalls of isolated grey sheets, like a child’s drawing, and ominous walls of blue-purple-black-grey that feel right out of The Wizard of Oz. My favorite is hearing the rain march its way up the slope of the island from the ocean: first the wind picks up, then the temperature drops slightly, then you hear its approaching crescendo, then it is on top of you, so loud you have to crank up the volume on the tv, then you hear it march away. So cool.
There are sides of the island that are raining when the other is not and elevations where it is raining (our house) but three miles down the hill (at school), it is not. This tropical rain pattern is not unique to Hilo, I know. But seeing as how Hilo has the highest annual rainfall in the U.S., it is definitely a part of Living Hilo Style.