Walking through the rain the other day, I was thinking about the sensory assault one can receive from rain: The sight of it can be daunting or magnificent. The smell and feel of it might be refreshing or dampening to the spirits. And there’s always the sound – rhythmic and relentless.
Now and then, when I ruminate about rain in this way, I’m reminded of a lesson I received in Grade 2.
My teacher at the time was Mrs R., and I’m not sure how well my memory serves me on this, but I think she was perhaps a bit past middle-aged (whatever you want to define that as). She was a very kind and patient woman (I suppose you have to be, to teach young kids), and a very lovely person (as I remember her).
One day, she was teaching us about the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – and she gave us the challenge of finding something that could be experienced through all five senses. Immediately, people started suggesting answers. I don’t remember any of the proffered answers, but I do remember that they always only ticked three or four of the boxes, and fell short on one or two (usually taste or smell). It wasn’t long before there was a thoughtful silence over the class; everyone wanted to be the first to think of that something.
Perhaps someone suggested “fire”, but then how can you taste a fire?
What about paper? You could eat paper if you wanted to (this was legitimately a thing at some point during high school… I still don’t understand why), and it would have a taste (although I’d imagine it to be quite a bland taste). Paper is visible and tangible, and (particularly if it’s in a novel) quite possibly smells very pleasant too. But you can’t really hear paper, can you? Paper doesn’t make noise of its own accord.
As you might have guessed by now, the answer, of course, is rain. Perhaps Mrs R. had intentionally planned this lesson on an overcast day, but it began to rain very lightly as we sat and pondered. It was a fun break from the classroom when she then invited us to go out and experience the rain with all our five senses.
I think it was teachers like her that made me want to be one too. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not actually a teacher currently – unless you count the training I have to do for new staff. But who knows what the future may hold…)
These days, I think rain makes me pensive and nostalgic. I’m more likely to be subdued than exhilarated, but there’s a feeling of refreshment and renewal in it too.
On Boxing Day last year, I was at work all day, but I was pretty sure it had been raining on and off the whole time. When I left to drive home, I was disappointed that the rain had stopped, as my car was in need of a clean. On a whim, I parked on a random street near my house, and sat in the car to call a friend. The talk was therapeutic (it had been a long day), and as it so happened, rain started pouring down as we talked.
As the dirt (and who knows whatever else) was washed from my car, so too did I feel internally cleansed.
Haruki Murakami, in his book What I talk about when I talk about running, writes about his connection with water, and his need to be near water. I’ve lent my copy to a friend, so I can’t pull quotes from it, and it’s been a while since I’ve read it, so I’m not even sure I’m remembering it correctly; but I’m sure the way he described it, it was like how I feel with blue sky: I feel “out of sorts” if I go too long without seeing blue sky.
Earlier this year, when a friend came to visit from overseas, a small group of us went for an impromptu road trip. We ended up in Kingscliffe, on the beach. It was a windy day, and it felt as if we were walking through a mist that was more salt than water. But staring out into that vast expanse, or watching the waves form, roll in, then disperse on the sand – I could’ve spent hours there. I think I understand what Murakami meant.
Water in any form – oceans, rivers, waterfalls, and even half-full/half-empty glasses – can evoke such a range of deep emotion. Water that is gushing, trickling, or perfectly still can be analogous to so many things.
Perhaps there is another “sense” with which water can be perceived with…?