Yesterday and today it rained and rained and rained. For hours, ever since morning the sky poured and thunder crackled. Lightning flashed in cool, dark rooms. And I thought to write about it all, except I’d already done it before. Once and twice and then some more.
As I journey further in life, the less new things I encounter. I’ve seen and lived more than 20 years already; the number of firsts is slowly decreasing day-by-day. And yet there are these obvious things I have yet to do, like smoking a cigarette.
But now, the things I love most are no longer new : rain, golden hours, warmth. For someone who is constantly trying to explore new concepts and ideas, that realisation unsettled me more than a little .
Is that why people have children: so they can experience something entirely new that keeps them on their toes, taking up so much of their time they do not have to face these uncomfortable questions? Or do they do it so they can live by proxy, so they can experience firsts again, through their children?
I don’t know and maybe that’s a question for another day. But I do realise, as I roll myself into my warm covers, that instead of having the charm of novelty, my rainy days are now softly worn in, like a pair of well-loved slippers or a large t-shirt softened through repetitive washing. Even though they are no longer new (and perhaps because they are no longer new), I sink into them with a deep sigh of relief, with utter contentment.
I was always scared that the quest would be more interesting than the treasure you would find. That things would lose their value once I had them, loved them. Maybe the journey matters so much more than the destination, I thought. But I set out on a journey because I was looking for something.
I was looking for home in a world of constant change. And some days…Days like these, I feel I have found it.
“The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. “
I had yet to reach the heart of the city, though.
The road long forgotten had open gardens that swam in several inches of cold rainwater, the potted plants almost floating to the surface. With the raindrops on my glasses, it looked for all the world as though the red-leafed plants, the ferns and thyme and tomato leaves were gently levitating off their designated pots, their roots hanging in the air, threatening to fly off.
It really felt as though I were barging in on something private. Some sort of elaborate concert/ art show thrown by Nature on rainy days, something humans weren’t meant to witness. As though to prove that point, the winds turned more violent, threatening to overturn my polka-dotted umbrella and take it away.
But I didn’t mind. Not a little. Not at all. It had been on my bucket list (back when I still had one) as a child, to be taken away by the wind, even as my mother warned me to hold tight and stay rooted. But if even plant roots were levitating and flying away, there was not much sense left to this world, was there? So it seemed a doable dream: to be flying with the wind on my face, holding on very tightly to an umbrella and waving away at the people below. As a child, it had been right there on my to-do list, along with ‘going to the beach’ and ‘befriending a dragon’. Who knows, if the wind had spirited me away at that moment, it could also have dropped me at the bakery before picking me up again. I wouldn’t have minded. I would have said thank you, really.
I reached a bridge then, and I thought to myself —in the way in which you do not command thoughts, but rather in the way in which they arrive to you— that I would not mind staying there. Not forever, not for 10 minutes or an hour or any amount of time. Without ever counting the minutes or caring for the clock, I would not have minded staying there, simply. I would not have minded listening to the sounds of rushing water, which made that little stream seem so much like a waterfall hidden somewhere in the city. It seemed such an important thing to witness. It became something I had to live.
I stayed by the bridge.
Then, when it felt right, when my head had been filled with just the right amount of waterfall images and water sounds, I moved on.
I reached the bakery, all warm and fragrant, submerged in strong waves of vanilla essence crashing at the entrance, with just the slightest undertone of orange blossom. I sat for 15 minutes in a tiny, crowded office within the bakery filled with ledgers and pens and non-bakery things. The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. Layer upon layer, like a pain au chocolat, I explained what the cake was meant to be, picked out colours and sizes, fillings and tiers and decorations. Right as I was about to leave though, the smell of the bakery pulled me back in. It seemed a shame to return empty-handed. So, among other things, I returned with a warm—no, hot, hot— pain au chocolat . The golden, buttery layers of puff pastry and the softly melted chocolate warmed my heart on the journey back home.
On the way back, the rain sent me a present. Or a memento, I’m not sure. The smallest little flower, as bright and as luminescent as the sun. A flower from the storm, stark yellow against the greyness of the pavement. As I looked one last time back at the road long forgotten, I realised that my wet boots had left prints on one piece of marvelously still dry pavement. These prints seemed to be proof that I had been there. That I had existed in that evanescent world of rainy days. Though less ephemeral than ripples in the water, these footprints would also very soon disappear, washed away by the water, dried by the sun.
And I thought to myself that this may just be what life is. A walk in the rain down roads unknown, in worlds too impermanent to ever truly matter. But it is this mortality that makes everything so damn beautiful.
I wish I could send you this rainy morning. I wish I had the ability to bottle up today’s atmosphere and put it in the mail, or send it as an attachment. But because I can’t, I’ll tell you what it was made out of so you can make it for yourself:
Writing postcards on a rainy day.
Watching, every now and then, the neighbour’s clothes getting soaked on the line.
Steam gently billows from my mug, warm and comforting. Between cold hands, the mug gives off a feeling earthy like the clay it was made out of. Then there are the spectacles fogging from the steam. And the fritters, golden brown and impossibly round, soft and sweet, still too hot to eat.
Then you have to add memories from earlier this morning: bare feet on cold tiles and reverent silence. Later, the silence is interrupted, enhanced by the melody of rain on rooftops. The orchestra softly fades in and then reaches a crescendo that never seems to end.
Then you add heat:
Turning on the stove, handling the soft, risen dough balls sprinkled with flour. Carefully placing them in the pan. Sighing contently as the gentle sounds of the dough frying reaches your ears. The cold air wraps around you, the petrichor sinks into your skin, cold droplets of rain escape through the wondrously still open windows, splashing fresh and wild in your hair.
Yeah, I really wish I could send this to you. As a small, transient microcosm, a one-use capsule. But life seems to be taking care of itself today, so I am almost certain that this would reach you somehow, even if I were to make a paperboat of this letter and send it racing down the gutter.
“I’m really not sure what it is about rainy days that washes away some of the aches of living. What it is that dissolves your troubles in muddy puddles…”
The door to one of the other worlds has opened.
It is raining and I feel like I have stepped into another realm.
Several layers of fog have settled by the mountains, obscuring the landscape. They say that rain is the sky crying, but I don’t really feel sad.
If nothing else, I feel a little more alive, a little younger, lighter, too. Maybe it’s because in the world of rainy days, little time has passed. After all, for how many cumulative days of my life has it rained? Maybe a year or two. Maybe that’s why I feel like a child. Why my fingers are itching to grab some coloured paper, pens and make paperboats. To throw them from the first floor and watch as they hurtle down the gutter, all the while crying out their names like it was a horse race.
I’m really not sure what it is about rainy days that washes away some of the aches of living. What it is that dissolves your troubles in muddy puddles. But my mind is clearer now. As though all the fog from inside had been forced to the foot of the mountains.
There’s just something about rain that eases my mind. Something soothing, cathartic. Maybe it is the manifestation that Nature is alive. That we may live on this Earth but ultimately, regardless of our personal beliefs, there is something greater than all of us. Something to stop us from going too far, from destroying everything we’ve ever known. Like the steadying arms of your parents on the bicycle handle when you first learned how to ride a bike and you thought you were going to crash. As amazing as it is to have someone encourage you to do anything you want, it’s also important to have someone who can tell you that you should probably stop somewhere.
But it may just be that I love the pitter-patter of rain on rooftops and window panes, this sound that is like the heartbeat of the Earth. Maybe that’s why we are so inclined to rest, to sleep in, because it feels safe, like the sound of a heartbeat in your ears.
And then there’s that moment after the rain, as the petrichor fills the air. There is this cool breeze that wraps around you like a new beginning.
But of course, at first, all you see is the dirty water that’s running down in rivulets, dead leaves and branches . It might look dirtier than before, but the truth is that it is the rain that drove out these impurities and cleansed even the most unattainable places. Rooftops, glass panes on skyscrapers, and sometimes even that little speck of darkness in your eyes that obscures your enjoyment of this world.
Note: This is Day 14 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find the entry for the previous day here. And if you really love rain like I do, I also wrote another little something about it a while ago.