Unbidden, unstoppable: southwest to northeast
It is raining.
There is comfort to be had here. The softness of the light, the sound of falling drops splashing onto shingle, the sensation of dry skin relaxing in the presence of atmospheric moisture. Prismatic globes of water trapped between the strands of a finely-meshed storm screen. The rain howling down, slanted by wind until it rained at a sharp angle.
In my childhood, I owned a study pillow made of green corduroy. Severe thunderstorms are a warm-weather rite of passage in Arkansas, and rather than learn to fear thunderstorms (and the tornadoes they often brought), I found myself growing increasingly fond of them.My parents called this particular room "the living room"—although it was more of a parlor or sitting room. I have always referred to it as the piano room. This north-facing room was rarely used, always quiet, and had a set of doors (storm and wooden) that faced out onto the one-lane road leading to our house.
Storms blew from the southwest to the northeast. I would open the wooden door and prop my study pillow against it, my eyes pointed downward, westward, toward my book; I would listen to the thunder, watch the rivulets of water stream down the glass, and lose myself in the words.
Why that room? Light. Calm, nondirectional light. Our house, situated in a very isolated community, was almost always one of the first to lose power in a storm, and one of the last to get it back afterwards. Even without electricity, I could read by that door almost until the very moment the sun set behind the storm clouds.
Storms held more fascination than fear. I would read contentedly to the sinuous rumble of thunder, until the sky turned that particular yellowish-greenish cast associated with tornadoes. If that color never came, I would read until either the sun set or the storm passed. If it came, I would close my book and watch the rain. If the power was still on, I would listen to the spiel of severe-weather watches and warnings as the storm unfurled itself from southwest to northeast.
Many nights I would read until the pages were black on dark grey, and shut my book only on the insistence of my mother (whose prediction of weak eyes, I suppose, has come true more through the power of genetics than my willingness to read no matter what the light level).
But there are days—like this—when the memories come, unbidden, unstoppable. The diffused light. The streams of water pouring down the window. The barely-audible timpani of distant thunder, the whipcrack boom of thunder next door.
They come, with indefinable urges to raise the blinds, to open the wooden doors. To turn off the lights, prop up with pillows and books. To watch the rain come and go as it will, as it is neither the first nor the last that I will see, and to take comfort in an event that comes with the regularity of the seasons.