May 12, 2010

Of the World

Everyplace a drop landed a spark lit. A thousand silver dancing lights in black reflective pools. It’s just rain on asphalt under the harsh streetlights. I remember the way the water feels around my ankles, cool and smooth. The pavement was rough and warm from the daytime sun under my bare soles.

And you can hear the rain. Not just the rain, but each individual drop as it makes a sound landing in the skim of water on the empty parking lot. They each make a little pinging sound and each create a ripple in the water, reflecting the white, white lights overhead. And each drop that lands sounds different whether it lands on grass or leaves or water or pavement. Together they blend and mix, add to the shush of tires and the wind in the oak trees to create that sound most people think of as rain.

This is an old storm, its thunder long spent and now it has settled in for the duration. Oh, there’s still a bit of lightning left in her, a big of bang to rattle the windows, but mostly she just rains. It comes on steady, like she knows her job. She’s good at it; she’s done it often enough over the years and there’s no need to be flashy about it. She shooed her rambunctious children before her and they made their presence felt before moving on to newer, more exciting places. Now the rain falls steady as the rhythm of a rocking chair.

For the most part, people don’t notice. At least, they act like they don’t or like they shouldn’t, as though the weather is somehow beneath them. I always notice. I put down my book or turn off my television. I go to my windows; I put on my coat. And sometimes I wander around in the empty parking lot next to my house, splashing in the puddles, listening to the raindrop pings, and chasing their dancing lights.

It’s not just the rain. It’s the city, too. Rain sounds different in the city. It looks and smells differently. It falls differently, as the busy, busy activity of all the little human bees stir up the atmosphere. Storms move differently around cities. Snow makes them soft, rain makes them bear up, and heat makes them press down. Rain isn’t just something that happens to the world. The world happens to the rain.

We need that connection, even though we pretend we don’t. But we invented the electric light over a hundred years ago and buildings still have windows. The best office is the one with the view, and not a view of a parking lot either, but a view of a park. We keep office plants and house plants. We think we control these things and we can shape the world as we see fit without realizing the world has already shaped us. After all, we send flowers to sick friends as a sign of life, hope, healing. We didn’t invent that love. I’m pretty sure the flowers were here first.

Not very many people will go out and walk in the rain. Most are smarter than that. But we all know the way it sounds. We all see every little dancing spark and hear every little calling drop, even if we don’t think we do. Everyone knows how rain smells. But most folks don’t understand they helped make the rain sound, smell, and look at is does. The water feels cool against my ankles because the pavement feels warm because fifty years ago someone decided they ought to pave that lot. So mundane. So forgotten and yet indelible.

People think we’re just in the world; they forget we’re of it.

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