A Geezer's Journal: Rain
It's raining here in New Orleans. The sound is steady and beautiful. I have both French doors in my apartment open to it. I can feel the freshness of the rain waft into the room where I'm working and I can smell the freshness as well. The way you can breathe rain even indoors. When rain falls, I always feel a kind of absolution. It means I can start anew. It's a kind of a recurring baptism.
Yes, there are rains that are not pleasant. I think of cold windy rainy March days in New York City. Or when you're driving at night and the rain is so brutal you can't see even beyond your windshield and your heart is about to exit your body.
All in all, though, everything about rain is mysterious and poetical. It's not a coincidence that Ernest Hemingway begins his memoir about Paris, A Moveable Feast, in rainy weather. This is a cold, sad-producing rain, but nevertheless an inspiring rain. He walks from his apartment to the Place St-Michel to a good cafe. He takes off his damp coat, sits down, and begins to write. He's writing a story that we will all read one day, and, as the writer, he knows this, because he is writing this as a man of 60 or so, looking back. So we are conscious of this and feel, in a way, intimate with the writer.
Hemingway writes, "A girl came in the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin....."
If rain accompanies strong sensual moments, then you live a poem, you are fully alive. In college, years ago, I was in love with a beautiful, sad girl. Her name was Sarah. She would stay with me in my apartment off campus over the weekend. I remember, even today, one afternoon, together, in bed. I remember it started to rain. I remember the sound of the rain slapping against the leaves on the ground, and the damp smell of it breathing into the window and cooling our bodies. My arm was draped around her bare shoulder. The cascade of her soft hair fell onto my naked arm. I often think about the soft sound of the rain against the windowsill and on the leaves on the ground. Of us in bed together as we talked dreamily to the tat-tat-tat of rain against the leaves.
If we think about the wonders of being alive, so many are simple, straightforward. Rain is one. Replenishing, cleansing, encouraging. Making us poets at least for an hour or so. The beauty of those drops coming from the sky. The mystery of it. There are things in this world that are dark. Rain is not one of them.
Richard Goodman is an assistant professor of creative nonfiction writing at the University of New Orleans. He’s the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France.