Having been raised with a love for Chinese poetry and ancient literature, I had thought the love for rain is particular to our culture. For indeed, lovely as it may seem in words and pictures, on an ordinary work day where one has to battle one’s way through a downpour to get to work and spend the rest of it squelching in wet shoes is hardly a welcome prospect, if not downright spiteful. Having to wait in the rain for a red light, or worse, for the bus, seems to be an added insult. And if a car happens to go by with just the right speed and carelessness, that feeling of being insulted can be exasperated so much that tempers flare and the world seem a meaner and drearier place all of a sudden. However, growing up listening to the sounds of rain recorded down thousands of years by the eyes and hands of great writers and poets, can give quite a different perspective on things. There are spring showers that shroud far mountains in mists and lingers on the tips of young shoots a new, tender green; summer thunderstorms that crack and rip the sky in half, a cool respite in boiling heat. My favorite is autumn rain that comes gently down, neither too fast nor too slow, too much or too little, and the music it makes on the fallen leaves a tale of great sadness, telling of what was and might have been. And winter rain can sometimes give us the biggest surprise of all when it crystallizes softly into fluffier, lighter wonders that adorn the world in white.
However, having traveled some and met some people, I find that this love of rain is universal. Indeed, Mocha puts it into words much better than I. What is it about rain that lures us so? Why is it that a rainy day calls me to the windows, to look as far as I could into the blurry distance, thinking about everything and nothing at all? And why is it a rainy day charms us to the couch with a favorite book and a cup of hot coffee when there are a million cares in the world that demand our attention? What is it about rain that urges me, among other writers throughout the ages, to put pen to paper and just let words flow? Perhaps it’s the rhythm, or the sad, unspoken analogies to shedding tears, or perhaps it’s simply the excuse to stay inside and be idle.
Yes, in this busy and industrial world where monetary success is praised like gods and idleness darkly frowned upon, we find ourselves rushed about our daily tasks, neither liking them nor hating them, but just pushing wearily on. We have less time for the things we really enjoy, like a cup of hot coffee, or a lovely book. Finishing an entrancing book in one sitting belonged to the careless age of 12, before physics and chemistry ever made their way into my world and I know way too much than I need to about rotors and potassium and Alexander the Great. Though I am being unfair, for I had loved physics and chemistry, history and geography, when they were taught at school. Learning was never the task, but the laborious process of working through stacks and stacks of problems took their strain. So that looking back to middle school and high school, I remember good years and times and friends, but not good books. That remains a regret to this day.
Both my brother and I have a strange habit. He can watch a favorite movie 50 times, memorize lines and scenes, and still be eager to watch it a 51st time if someone were to suggest it. I am the same with my books. A beloved book is never read too many times, in fact, sometimes it has an advantage over new books, especially when my time for reading is cramped, because I can pick it up anywhere and spend 20 minutes wandering in a completely different, but safe, world. A great lover of books has once rebuked me for this, stating that if one sat on the floors of the library and read every waking hour of one’s life, it would be impossible to do all the reading one wanted, so what a waste to read the same book twice! But oh, this great lover of books does not love books for themselves! For if he did, if he had loved books as he no doubt loves his friends and children, he would not have phrased the question. If we made one new friend every day of our lives there would be charming people in this world that we’d never have the fortune to meet, but what’s to stop us from continuously seeking out the company of the beloved few, the close companions who share our secrets and laughter and tears? For it is so with books. A favorite book has a hero or heroine who bears our resemblance or faces our struggles, who are defined by the same strength or weaknesses that people see in us. And how good it feels! To read their whole story in 400-500 pages and to know they triumphed over troubles and stayed true to their path. For isn’t that what we ache for and puzzle over ourselves? At lost about destiny or purpose, we turn to books for answers.
And so we are condemned to wait. To wait for the right sort of rain that relaxes rather than terrifies, and for it to fall on weekends when we’re not engaged in other tasks, and for the miraculous appearance of a good book with it. It is truly a wonder that all these elements can fall into place at once. But when they do, then you’re living in one of the most comfortable (though probably not most memorable) days of your life. Don’t forget your coffee!