A Theory of “Rain Skills”

Waiting out the rain, Valley of the Hidden Lakes, Banff National Park, 2012

I have a “Theory of Rain Skills” that I have been developing over the past few decades. And, given the amount of rain (and summer snow squalls) that I have experienced over the years, I have had lots of opportunities to test the theory and to refine it.

Cold rain/wet snow, Douglas Lake, Banff National Park, early August 2012

It might be worth noting that the subject of the theory is much bigger than rain. Rain is a metaphor … but this is also a theory specifically about rain.

It should also be noted that a lot of rain is particularly significant on a bushwack trip because I am moving through the “bush” — I am moving up against wet tree branches and saplings, and underbrush, etc. In other words, when the forest gets wet, Steve gets very, very wet — from the rain and the dripping branches and the puddles, etc. Lots of rain on a bushwacking trip represents the Catastrophe. It can also have some “sub-optimal” consequences like hypothermia, slipping on steep, wet ground, swollen creek crossings, etc.

Here’s a quick 11 second video to put you nearer to the experience … the audio helps.

The sound of steady rain on the tarp above the tent. Playful Meadows, July 2019

So here is the Crux of the theory. When I am on an outdoor adventure it’s not up to me whether or not it rains. I am not in control of when it rains, or how much it rains.

But … according to my theory … when it rains I can ask myself “What can I control?” “When it rains, what is within my control?”

Packing up in the rain, Palliser-Cross Traverse, Southern Canadian Rockies 2021

I can’t control the rain … but I can control many of the responses that I have to the fact that it is raining.

Sartre called this “Facticity” — the concrete details (the facts, the uncontrollable situations) which create the backdrop for human freedom and it’s limits. The rain is a fact that definitely affects my travel and my camping. In certain ways it limits my freedom. But it never totally determines or eliminates my freedom. It is raining (a lot) … and I am still free to choose my response. I may not be free to choose from an unlimited amount of options, but I can choose freely from several options.

Sometimes when it is raining heavily on a trip, I smile. And that’s the beginning of the theory. “It is raining, and I am free to smile”.

My choice to smile is not an uninformed response.

My smile is informed by my freedom.

My smile (in the midst of the Catastrophe) is informed by the 12 Ideas that Rocked my World.

I can authentically smile in the heavy downpour because I know what I believe in.

When it is raining a lot on a trip, I use something like the pie chart below to help my thinking. I figure that a lot of rain creates some inescapable facts. I cannot wish away the rain (and I have tried! — usually at about 3 am while I am lying in my tent waking up to the fact that it has been raining all night!). So let’s say that the rain determines about 50% of my situation.

The Theory of Rain Skills expressed as a pie chart (percentages are approximate).

If I have prepared well — i.e. good rain gear, a tarp over the tent, etc. — then that helps my situation by about 15% (i.e. the situation would be 15% “worse” without the proper preparation). Then I estimate that about 30% of the quality of my experience is determined by how I “Frame” my situation. That 30% is determined by where I put my Attention, how I relate my situation to the Purposes of the trip, and an Acknowledgement of my ability to move productively and constructively through the sub-optimal and through the Catastrophe.

These are my “rain skills” — Attention, Purpose and Acknowledgment.

“I can’t control the fact that it’s raining.

But I can control part of my response to the fact that it is raining.

An essential question is:

How much of my response can I control?

— Trip Journal, Valley of the Hidden Lakes, 2012 … a lot of rain that trip.

It rains.

And we are still free.

Welsh Lakes area, Central Purcells 2006.

And besides, sometimes the rain can bring benefits.

Sometimes the Catastrophe reveals something it didn’t mean to.

Rainbow after a lengthy rain shower, Welsh Lakes, 2006

Moving productively through the Catastrophe requires that I construct a good-faith understanding of Facticity.

I have learned a lot from the rain.

It’s always seemed like a metaphor to me.

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