Journal, Writing

Rain or shine, light or dark

Weather was on my mind today. It was a dark, gloomy, rainy day–just the kind of day one should expect in Oregon in March. At work, I sit at a desk that faces a series of floor-to-ceiling windows, so the weather is often a focal point for those moments of distraction from the computer screen. Sometimes it rained hard enough to hear through the roof. Sometimes, it only misted. The movement of the clouds–dark grey over light grey–held my attention the most, I think. 

But in particular, as the rain pounded down on the roof, I remembered reading that Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell–one of my all-time favorite modern fantasy novels–said that she wrote best when it was raining. A rainy day was her comfortable writing niche. I believe she even had the sound of rain on a tape she’d play when she had to write, but the weather decided to be stubbornly sunny. 

It makes me wonder: what is my writing weather?

I don’t think it’s rainy, but then there are so many different kinds of rainy. There is the rain that falls mid-February, melting the built-up snow, which makes me want to curl up in a quilt and read for hours. Then there are the Manoa rains, which always carry that refreshing breath of air–almost sweet, almost tastable–but which dry fast on the concrete sidewalks baked in the hot sun that inevitably follows minutes later. There are the smokey-breath cold autumn rains, which patter on the bright orange and yellow leaves of the changing maples and birches, and turn the pine tree trunks from mute grey to moody black. Can’t forget about the summer rains, sweeping in behind the late afternoon sunlight, carried by the grumbling, menacing clouds and swept from side to side in sheets by the heady, O2-charged air of the looming thunderstorm. 

But then I’m not sure it’s exactly sunny days. There are moments when I think an early summer morning, when the sunlight casts dancing leaf shadows across the slate tiles of the bathroom floor, might just be my writing weather. But then, I rarely sit down to write then. I want to savor the aesthetics of the moment, breathe the cool morning air, feel the leaping shadows chill one moment and the sun-patch warm the next, savor the quiet…

I feel completely different, though, when it’s late summer and the sun has sunk behind the trees, when the air is hot and thick, and the cicadas are buzzing, when the dragonflies whiz to and fro catching mosquitos, and the chains of the porch swing creak softly as I rock. Or on a winter morning, when the skies are bright, blinding blue and the ice-crusted snow and glass-dipped trees sparkle like a crystal shop beneath the blazing spotlight. Autumn, when you can smell dry leaves, wood smoke, apples, even the hint of snow in the air, and the deep, long shadows are so cold, while the sunlight is pale yellow, and cool to the touch. 

There are tons of moments like that for me; how can I pick just one? I think my writing weather is on days that aren’t like any of those, the ones when I don’t mind tucking myself inside, back to the window, head down, hands on the keyboard. I think I prefer to savor those days and imprint them in my mind, so that I can write about them later when I miss them.

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