I awoke in the night to the sound of rain outside the window. Such sweet music! So welcomed, so needed, made sweeter yet by the drought— all is magnified by want tumbling into fulfillment. And yet so much more than the purely practical. Its pitter-patter dripped into my dreams and all the ancient associations kicked in. The grand mythological sweep of rain, from its excessive fury in Noah’s flood to the quiet drizzle of “rain on the green grass, rain on the trees…” Rain is everywhere in film, from the joyous “Singin’ in the Rain” to the relentless downpour in The End of the Affair to its dark constant presence in film noir. Chopin evokes it in the Raindrop Prelude, Harold Arlen talks about “Stormy Weather (keeps rainin’ all the time…) and the Carter Family sings,
“The rain is gently pouring, and I hear I am recalling,
Those brighter days when you were by my side.
But now that we are parted, I’m blue and broken-hearted,
Come back to me and maybe I won’t cry.
I hear those raindrops, purty little raindrops,
Makes me think of all those tears I’ve shed.
Falling down my windowpane, I know I’ll never be the same,
Without you, I wish that I was dead.”
Rain as tears, rain as melancholy, rain as comfort, rain as benediction, rain as gratitude for shelter and an inward-turning coziness. Rain as a playground for children with faces turned to the sky with mouth open and tongue out, rain as puddle-splashing delight, with or without boots. Blessing to the plants, curse of the homeless, threat to picnics and outdoor weddings, nervous reminders to houses built precariously on cliffs, cruel challenge to teachers stuck with kids five days without recess. (Shall we play eraser tag again or thumbs-up? How about four hours of silent sustained reading?)
Here in San Francisco, crossed over into the closing month of the year and the coming of the rainy season, the rain tells us that all is right with the world and all is proceeding according to nature’s grand plan. If our good luck persists, the snow in the Sierras will pack high, the reservoirs fill, the hills turn from their half-year of brown to a glistening green. It’s time. May the rains continue!