Fall has fallen, and with it the rain. Southeast Alaska is famous for rain. But we don’t care. We have an image to uphold, and that image does not include an umbrella. As a matter of pride, Juneau locals never use umbrellas. We wear rain gear. The better the rain gear, the happier we are.
So what do we do with that stray umbrella that might be lurking in our closet? Here are a few suggestions of what to do with an umbrella when you’re not using it to keep off the rain:
• Use it as a planter. Invert the umbrella, stick the end in the ground and fill the canopy with dirt. A colorful burst of pansies makes a lovely accent at the end of your driveway. You can also use an umbrella as a hanging basket to display fuchsia or other trailing plants. If your umbrella has a traditional curved handle it will hang perfectly, and if it has a wrist strap it will twirl in the breeze. You can attach some wind chimes to the tip of each rib for the finishing touch.
• Use it as a boat. True, a person couldn’t float in an upended umbrella, but lots of other things could. A child’s toys or stuffed animals could take a trip across the pond. You could write notes and send them to a friend afloat. As a variation on the boat theme, you could load your umbrella up with fireworks, float it into the middle of a lake, and watch them go off on a summer’s evening.
• Defend yourself. An open umbrella makes a remarkable shield, and a closed, full-length umbrella works admirably as a sword. If you have one of those awesome umbrellas that pop open with the press of a button, your shield is available whenever you need it.
• Sleep in it. Okay, maybe not you. But if you line your inverted umbrella with soft blankets you’ll get the coziest cat bed you could ever want. Your kitty will be lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the curved umbrella resting on a flat surface.
• Walk like an Englishman. Tuck a long black umbrella with a sturdy curved handle under the crook of your arm as a fashion accessory. When you walk, grasp the handle firmly, swing the umbrella to the horizontal position with each step, and then swoop it down to lightly touch the ground before pivoting it upward again. It might take a bit of practice to get into the rhythm, but with diligence you can achieve that effortless grace of a genteel Englishman out for a breath of fresh air.
• Pretend to be Gene Kelly. There is no better example of the joyful alternative use of an umbrella than Kelly’s signature dance in Singing in the Rain. He twirls his umbrella in the air, he dances around it on the ground, he stomps in puddles with abandon, and then he hands his umbrella to a needy passerby and saunters off whistling. At no time does the umbrella actually keep him dry.
• Tie a long string to your umbrella and fly it like a kite. This works best on a blustery day — the kind of day when you can’t stay dry under an umbrella anyway, because the wind turns it inside out.
• Store things in it. Hang an umbrella upside down in the bathroom to hold rolled up towels. Stick one in the corner of your child’s bedroom to collect stray stuffed animals. Pile your onions and garlic into an umbrella hanging in the pantry. The possibilities are endless.
• Use an umbrella as a fish creel. When you reel in that big one, just drop it into your up — ended umbrella filled with water. Since the fabric is waterproof, it can hold water when upside down quite as well as it repels water when held upright. Just watch that the fish doesn’t flop out of the umbrella.
• Fetch and carry. Fill an umbrella with wood chips to carry out to your campfire or smoker. Pick berries in the woods and fill the umbrella hanging off your arm. If your wheelbarrow is broken, you can carry your yard debris to the woods behind your house in your trusty umbrella.
• Hang an umbrella from your eaves as a bird feeder. Simply fill with birdseed and watch the birds flock around. When it rains and the umbrella fills up with water, the birds can use it as a birdbath.
• In a pinch, you can hold your umbrella over your head outside. I hear they’re good for keeping off the rain.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.