Monday, January 18, 2010


What is it about rain that insists on being recognized through poems, essays, monologues, solliloquies, tomes, tributes, reminiscences, anecdotes, and analogies? Why must I add my little remarks to a topic that's had more than its share of ink? And why do I like rain in the first place?

It's true, I hate getting my clothes wet, and I hate how it can so easily ruin my hair and my shoes. I worry about the mildew it can cause, and it makes driving more difficult, even dangerous. Too much gray weather and one might risk becoming morose, too sedentary, too insulated and enclosed, perhaps even depressed.

Even with all that, I am always pleased when I learn rain is coming my way.

Through the years I've acquired a specific group of memories, like so many inexplicably evocative little movies, that are immediately triggered by rain. To an outsider these plotless vignettes probably sound like nothing much, but I'm surprised at their power and persistence for me.

With no real expectation that anything will resonate with anyone happening to read this, I transcribe them here:

1. I am in an attic room with one of those wonderful window seats tucked against a dormer window. This room is my retreat. Outside, the sky is thick and dark, and thunder and lightening punctuate an unrelenting rainstorm. I am surrounded by my favorite books and treasures, and dressed very warmly. This is not a memory of a real place, but an idealized composite of many books and stories I have read, stories of both modern day and times long past, and it dates back deep into my childhood. Rain never fails to bring this fully-formed idea to mind.

2. We are driving somewhere, a long drive to a destination now forgotten, and it is raining hard. I am with my mother, father, and sister, and this is an imcomplete yet vivid memory of a real event. Because I am small, I can lie down in the back seat and watch the sky as the miles slip by. I have a small plastic bag with some windmill cookies in it, and this is a treat I am meant to enjoy en route. Everything about this seemingly banal little memory comes together to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

3. High school: my best friend and I drive out to the town of Benicia on a free Saturday and go antique-store rummaging on a spectacularly dramatic rainy day. This is unusual enough of an excursion for me that I remember it very specifically, but I also remember the black velvet vintage hat I bought there (a fashion hat from the 1950s that the dealer incorrectly attributed it to the 1920s; I didn't argue the point), and then buying some highly fragrant strawberry incense sticks. I also found an antique silk dress. Rain, the incense, the sense of adventure and the powerful feeling of acquiring special objects, and also of being free to have an adventure with a friend instead of my family, a day made perfect by deep gray skies and rain. I have no idea if she remembers this day or not because we've long since lost touch.

4. to be continued

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