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December 02, 2003: Rinsed

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We have had rainstorms here before. There have been days since I started this job where we have stopped what we were doing to stare out the window as it pours from the sky in great sheets of water into the river below. But something about the rainstorm yesterday made me stop and stare more than usual.

It wasn't the rain itself that caught my eye because it happened during one of the brief lulls that occurred throughout the day, amid the bouts of crazy rain. I happened to glance out my window at just the right angle and realized that I could actually see downtown Sacramento in the distance.

I can normally see the higher buildings, since after all our office is right on the Sacramento River, and we're only a mile or two away from old town. But usually there is a little bit of a misty look to the view, as if the city is lurking behind some gossamer veil. But after the rain that heavy rain that cleared the air completely I could see the city clearly for the first time. All the buildings stood in stark contrast against the sky. I could see the cars as they sped down the highway across the river, far away. In the park that spans the distance between our office and downtown I could see No Parking signs. And closer still, across the river I could see that the bushes that line the banks were heavy with tiny red berries.

It usually doesn't even occur to me to think that the air around Sacramento might not be the best of quality. I suppose after a while you just get used to the fact that you see everything through a bit of a haze. And so to see it so starkly defined against the leaden gray of the cloud-covered sky was shocking, and also a little unnerving. It was a clear reminder of just how bad the air can be. Oh, we're nowhere near the thick and yellowish smog that coats Los Angeles like a layer of grease, but the air is not as clean as I have been apparently fooling myself it might be.

The rain continued on and off all afternoon. It was as if the clouds would pour out everything they had, all at once, and then scurry off to refill as quickly as possible before returning to repeat the process all over again. Later on, as the sun began to set and the rain was still falling, I glanced outside and noticed that the buildings of downtown Sacramento were only visible through that barely-there haze that I'm so used to. Only now it's much more noticeable, now that I have that perfect, sharply lighted cityscape etched in my brain.

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