From where I sit at my wooden desk on the second floor of this sprawling office building, I can see the sky — not through a window, but through the octagonal skylight capping the atrium. What seemed like moments ago, the sky was blue, quintessential sky blue, with the kind of puffy clouds I’ve always wanted to hug.
Lost in reading and work, I suddenly realize that the blue sky transformed, darkened, and the puffy white clouds were pushed out by a landscape of gray. Then it came, the downpour. The entire atrium dimmed and now there are sheets of rain pelting the geometric panes of glass above me. The droplets are racing to the bottom, as fast as they can, leaving streaks behind them.
The harder the rain comes down, the louder it becomes. The sound of water hitting the hard surfaces of the building grows and fills the airy space. Everything but the rain seems to quiet: conversations cease and everyone seems to be waiting, watching.
I checked the forecast earlier today when I heard someone mention the coming storm. Those blue skies, now hidden behind thick gray, gave no hint at the torrent to come. But the weather maps knew what was coming. Wonky blobs of green and yellow and red — red are the most severe of the thunderstorms, of course — invading central New Jersey as the maps projected hours into the future. The storm looked like a monster, gobbling up everything in its path as it headed out to sea.
It’s time to go home, but I can see — and hear — that it won’t be a pleasant trip. I love the rain, but I don’t love driving in it. Then a message asserts itself on my cell phone — Flash Flood Warning, Imminent Severe Alert. Imminent.
The drive home feels at times severe and imminent. The storm can’t be stopped. Thunder rolls in like long groans from far away places. The lighting splits the sky in half as it cracks down to earth. Passing cars throw heavy sprays from beneath their tires onto my gray sedan, which in turn, repays the favor. The road home is long and wet, the radio competing all the time with the pounding of rain drops and the sound of tires on damp pavement.
Once home, the rain feels calmer, even though it probably isn’t. The birds refuse to stop singing even though they can’t see the sun. Or maybe that’s why they sing, to reassure each other that it’s still there, somewhere beneath the cloud cover. Maybe they are calling out to each other to come take refuge under the branches of the pine tree. Or maybe they tease each other for wet and ruffled feathers.
All around the warmly lit backyard, water begins to pool on shining leaves and slick, flat patio stones. So unlike the droplets that were racing down the atrium’s glass ceiling, these droplets look content to sit next to each other on the outspread hand of the bleeding heart’s branches, to watch as nature glistens.
In so many ways, we need the rain. We need the rain in the garden — the herbs and new grass seed drink greedily. We need the rain to break the weighty humid air — our lungs breathe easier, deeper. We need the rain to wash the world — to clean and renew and revive. We need the rain.
And on it falls.
The thunder rolls off; the lightening gives in and moves away. We’re left with the gentle white noise of a spring shower, becoming the backdrop to bird songs and the tapping of keys, the soundtrack of life cycles and the washing of the world.