I don’t know why I thought of this today, this morning while sitting on the back steps as the straight rain began to douse the trees, grass, cars. Excited small brown birds darted from the lilac bush to the low branches of maple trees bordering the driveway. What came into my mind was a scene of a classroom, middle school years, in a Catholic school where windows line the students’ left side of the room. Outside is Goodhue Avenue and full tall trees. It must be late spring because the trees are green. The sky is cloudy gray and the light in the classroom is flat and dim. There are overhead lights that would not usually be on at this hour of the day. The rain is steady and heavy. I’m staring at the scene outside. Almost hypnotized by the falling rain. I hear the rain slapping on the big tree leaves and washing the street. It’s a straight-down shower, the sound of it muffling the voice of the nun teaching us something that afternoon.
Cards of alphabet letters in cursive form, upper and lower case, ring around the top of the black-board or it could have been a green-board. In a corner of the wall on the right are symbols of Gregorian chant notation, the directional signs for singing ancient church music. In another corner is a shelf unit or bureau topped by a blue-and-white figure of Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. There are 30 or so other classmates in light-blue shirts with navy-blue ties (some with metal tie clips) and uniform dark pants or checked blue-and-gray jumpers over white blouses with round collars. At the front of the class on the right is a tall steel cart with wheels holding a small television that gives a black-and-white picture when it is turned on, such as the times the students are allowed to watch a splashdown of one of the Mercury or Gemini astronaut capsules. My memory is that the rain is happening in time that is almost no-time, the spinning of the long narrow red second-hand on the clock and the whole world suspended for however long I stare out the window at the rain, which keeps coming back to earth from the clouds all blended into a light gray cover above the town. It’s a kind of daydream dimension.
Maybe the rain was needed badly because in my memory there is a sense of relief that comes with the downpour. Or perhaps it is just the intercession of Nature reminding me of something larger in the midst of the school routine, the day’s regular groove, the pattern of this-and-that, another day, another week. I’ve had this memory edge into mind before when certain sensations come together. A quiet day, an easy rain, not any kind of storm with lashing wind and sideways water, but an even rain thick enough to see when you squint and look into the foreground—the separate streams or drops forming down-lines filling the air. We take rain for granted most of the time. We’re usually too busy to consider what is going on. And why, among the thousands of rain-days in my past, do I get this re-run of that school-day scene where I’m watching the rain drench the trees on Goodhue Avenue?—Paul Marion (c) 2016