Rain creates an illumination
of its own. Filtered through heavy clouds and reflected off the puzzled landscape that is L.A., it translates gloom into the kind of half-light that accompanies dreams and memories.
I remember a storm at sea many years ago on a troop ship bound for South Korea. Even though the ocean was a dark gray, there was a glow to its expanse, as though it was lighted from within.
Storm light anywhere is a transfixing iridescence that exists both during the day when the autumn-toned leaves of the liquidambar trees radiate a soft sheen through the dampness, and at night when streetlights splash pools of luminosity off the wet pavement, mimicking the effects of a film noir movie set.
Rain creates different moods in different people. Some glory in the rarity of a stormy day in a city that has been painfully dry. Others complain that rain depresses them. They long for a continuation of the sunshine that paints the endless days with a murky yellow.
I greet the rain with the excitement of a child, walking through it bareheaded during the day and drifting into sleep at night as it taps on the roof with the steady beat of a metronome. I pull the drapes open and let the half-light in, and I lie there pondering the years that have brought me to where I am.
What occupies me today is a personal situation, although universal to those of us to whom a lifetime of martinis and cigarettes, minimum exercise and endless angst have caught up with in mid-stride.
In the day before the rain began, announced by lightning and accompanied by bass drums, I had been told by a cardiologist that my heart function at best was only 50-50. His conclusion was the result of tests taken a week earlier. When I asked what that meant on a scale of one to 10, he said "a five."
One tends to recall minute details in moments of personal importance: creases in the white medical frock that he wore, a woman seen from a window in the office pulling
a child by the hand across
the street, a pot of artificial flowers on the floor in a corner, ceramic cats lined up on a shelf.
I was speechless for a moment and then suddenly said, "I've joined a gym," as a quest, I suppose, for his approval and perhaps a positive response, like agreeing that joining a gym would raise the odds to 60-40 in my favor, or even 70-30. He replied in an almost distracted manner, "No need to treadmill. Just walk now and then." Not even a 51-49. I was fading in the stretch.
This was on my mind all that day and into the next when the rain began, oddly lifting a tendency to sink into
a melancholy hole. I became introspective but not morose, considering time as an element of the storm, meant to refresh rather than defeat.
And then came Tuesday.
When Barack Obama was elected to be the next president of the United States, I felt that I was living on a pinnacle of time in which rain and the passage of days had coalesced to wash the past clean.
Telephone calls and e-mails from as near as next door and as far away as New York enhanced that feeling. A friend in Manhattan e-mailed, "My friends all over the world have been crossing their fingers for this moment." My 22-year-old granddaughter Nicole said they were singing in the streets in her Oakland neighborhood. An e-mailer in Silver Lake summarized it best: "We have reclaimed our nation and our nation has reclaimed its hope."
We were reflecting in different ways the wild elation of those jammed into Chicago's Grant Park as Obama made his acceptance speech. As though to link to that moment, to share the joy that the young were manifesting, Nicole almost shouted into the phone that the park was only a few blocks from the art school she had attended! She was in Chicago again. A part of it.
Cinelli and I watched the details of the election together, sharing with each other the turmoil that history had brought the world in the last eight years and what could be possible in the years ahead; in the tomorrows that I wrote about last week. That tomorrow was here.
What's this got to do with the somewhat sobering news I received from a cardiologist? That analysis and the victory of a black man in a nation only 143 years from the practice of slavery creates a new level of consciousness in me to be aware of what's happening not just politically but historically. Both are moments in time that should be embraced.
There is glory in the pristine air, and a heart in trouble gives me every reason to cherish it.