It’s raining again. Not even dramatic rain. It ain’t blowing, the wind ain’t cracking its cheeks. Just a steady, relentless soaking under skies the color of dirty sheets, maybe twenty degrees colder than it ought to be this time of year. The same weather we had yesterday. The same weather we had the day before. The same weather we’ve been having for days and weeks on end. In my back yard we have a couple of trees that flower this time of year, one white, one pink. For a week or two, when they are in bloom, our patio is one of the prettiest places on earth. This year, they didn’t have a chance. It’s been so cold that the flowers never opened fully, and every couple of days, the steady rain ramped up into a driving torrent, and the rain ripped the petals from the not-fully-opened buds and plastered them to the ground, leaving the almost bare limbs festooned with rag-like shards of flower, the patio slippery with pink and white petals streaked with mud. It looks like a crime scene, like the aftermath of a rape.
The weather suits my mood. It’s been a bad month, personally. Family stuff I don’t really want to get into. Work stuff I can’t really get into. And I’m at an age where that stuff can get on top of me. Where I realize that, unlike Caesar who once stood astride the world like a colossus, I am not shrunk to this little measure. This is just as big as I ever got. The kind of mood where I’m fighting off the urge to get into some endless loop of whining self-pity. Navel-gazing, my old man would have said. He wasn’t much into navel gazing. If you’re a man, you suck it up and you get on with things, and you don’t waste your time, and you certainly don’t waste anyone else’s, with weather metaphors or a litany of how the world’s been picking on you. Not when you still got your health. Not when you still got your job. Not ever.
But that’s the thing about being a writer. Navel-gazing is part of your job. You do actually have to take the time to get in touch with this shit, to work out why you feel this way. To remember it. To store it up like some kind of word-paint mojo so that, when you’ve got a character who’s hit the downside of life, who’s just kind of hanging on, you know what winds his springs. Even if the character doesn’t. Even if the character isn’t in to navel gazing.
My old man? Those last few years? The heart failure slowly sucking everything out of him? His wife dead, then his sister dead, too many nights alone in that room at the assisted living center? He never said anything. Not to me. Never whined once. But I know, on a day like this, he’d look out the window, and he’d understand.
So I’ll suck it up, and I’ll get on with things. But I’ll remember this day, this week, this feeling. And I’ll use it somewhere.