With apologies to Karen Carpenter, rainy days and Mondays rarely get me down.
Never? Well, OK, I’ve been trod under by more than a few Mondays in my 64 years of life. But rainy days--never. I like rainy days (and nights). I don’t think of them with the usual adjectives: dark, dank, dreary, gloomy, miserable. I’m very fond of pleasant sunny days too, but in a perverse sort of way, rainy days warm and comfort me, whether outdoors or in. Pretty ironic for someone who spent more than a few rainy days outdoors, forced on him by Army life.
The obvious question: Why? I'm not sure, but it may have something to do with leaves and wet tennis shoes (Converse All Stars, to be exact).
It was 1965. I was 12. It was late fall, probably November, which means my Army-officer-father had been deployed to Korea for at least five months. For some reason I was out in the rain on an aimless walk. I have no idea what spurred me to do such a thing in the days before Gore-Tex, but I did do it.
The trees to my front were denuded; just a few straggling leaves defying the breeze and the rain. The expanse of rising fields to my left, the far eastern edge of the fairgrounds, was brown and matted. To my right were the soggy beginnings of a new housing development, mostly basements and foundations. Ugly but promising.
I was not so much walking as trudging. My canvas tennis shoes were mostly hidden by the leaves through which I plodded . I was not in a hurry. I had no destination. It had not been raining so hard or so long as to soak the leaves that were my sidewalk. Each step overturned dry leaves and produced the familiar crackle and crunch.
That’s all I remember. I do not remember leaving the house. I do not remember returning home.The reason for the walk escapes my memory. As vivid as it is visually, the scene is without meaning, except for one thing.
Even though I have no memory of how I felt during that walk, every time this memory presents itself I feel happy and content--feelings that are not common for me, nor have they been for many years. What I see is simple; a grey and brown scene, fields, trees, dug up lots, but mostly my wet shoes turning over the leaves, the sound of the leaves mixing with the sound of the rain and the breeze. November in Pennsylvania.
Despite the absence of feelings and motive, the memory is pleasant to me even now, more than a half-century later. I have very few vivid childhood memories, and when I try to recall my youth, this scene pops up first more often than not. It’s a very short scene, less than a minute, in a very long play, the end of which is nearer than its beginning. I have no idea why I feel content when I recall it.
Being more than a little prone to melancholy (I’m Eeyore, not Winnie the Pooh.), I can only conclude my affinity for rain-sodden days is a gift, an inexplicable, unmerited grace from a blink in my mind’s eye of tennis shoes and leaves. Whatever else is bothering me, I can always look out the window and admire the beauty of the day, rain or shine.
So I must add thankfulness to the pleasant feelings the memory brings. At this point in my life, I’m not really interested in peeling back the layers of the onion, to discover the cause-and-effect of this memory. I’ll just count it as a gift, a small cause with a big effect for which I’m grateful.
Since I began by mangling a song, I’ll end with apologies to Fred Ebb and Frank Sinatra. If I can find contentedness in a 50-year-old memory, I’ll find it anywhere.
I just have to look with my heart as well as my eyes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see it best with my eyes closed and my heart open.
(c) 2017 Larry Pizzi
50 years of photographs and 35 years of keeping a commonplace book.