Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The sprinkles that ten minutes ago set me scurrying to get the tools, sandpaper, and half-finished bookshelf stuffed back into the shed have bloomed into a steady rain. The drops and attending glorious sunset come this evening courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Paul, currently spinning itself out over the Sea of Cortez. By the time hurricanes meander this far inland, they've lost their oomph and give us a pleasant fall shower. The cool wind and the rain take me back home, back to Chicago.

Autumn rain transforms reality. It makes things more immediate and real, stripped down to the true nature of what they are. All pretenses and hedged bets and promises or speculations of what they once were and might yet become are washed away, and the world is as itself.

Naked and wet it's hard to be pretentious.

The rain is at once isolating and liberating, cutting down the universe of possible choices. The world turns inward and all is dark and damp, the water dripping from trees and scaffolding and buildings and people in equal measure.

Places never seem so much like themselves and home never feels so much like home as on a rainy day in the fall. Summer's bright allure of cloudless skies and glinting windows and all the brightly touted distractions have been put away for another year, and the city goes about its business, and it rains. The sidewalks are puddled and the L platforms are glistening and the street sounds are muffled and the people carry on, ducking under umbrellas and newspapers, hurrying into vestibules and onto the train, and the trains still roll and the water beads on the windows like sweat and the city strides on and it rains.

The cop directing traffic and the trader with his stock exchange badge and the homeless guy in the doorway and the bicycle messenger and the advertising executive and the guy in for the day from the 'burbs all get equally wet. And the stanchions on the Adams Street bridge and the girders under the Quincy L stop and the lions at the Art Institute and the flickering bulbs on the sign for Maxwell Street Red Hots and the expired parking meters all drip at the same rate. The water creeps up the limestone of the Trib Tower and Soldier Field and the county lockup all the same, equivalent histograms of wet and November in Chicago.

Eighteen hundred miles and twelve years removed, a cool rainy day still puts me there.

The desert rain is different. It is something not to be wasted, because when it stops it might not come back for months. I wonder but that lifetime desert dwellers must find something else to cleanse their souls, some different environmental occurrence that makes them long to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. When else do they get to eat soup, but when it rains? And do they know to take a good look then, so that they may see things as they are?

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