The rainy season has finally arrived in the Puget Sound area after a long glorious summer. The Pacific Northwest is notorious for its rainy days. Partially for this reason very few people think of idolizing this place in the manner of “California Dreaming.” However, rain is not necessarily so dreary as many culture products imply. First of all, it keeps the vegetation green and water shortage is not a frequent problem, as it is, for instance, in California.
Culturally, rain is often used as a symbol for something adverse and negative. For instance, Edith Sitwell’s poem “Still Falls the Rain” begins with the stanza:
“Still falls the Rain-
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss-
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the Cross.”
This poem makes rain something undeservedly sinister. However, even a stoic Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa begins his poem Ame nimo Makezu (Not
Defeated by Rain) using the imagery of rain as a symbol of adversity:
“Not defeated by rain
Not defeated by wind
Not defeated by snow or summer’s heat…”
Then, is it a universal human practice to use rain as symbolic of hardships? Well, it does not seem the case. In places where water shortage is chronic, such as Middle-East or Africa, rain is said to be used as a symbol of blessing, which is thoroughly understandable. But, of course, in the area where the climate is moderate rain is usually used as a metaphor for something negative. Even then, in some cases rain is used in a highly optimistic context. For instance, the American song “Singing in the Rain” turns rain into a prop that accentuates the joyousness of being in love.
“I’m singing in the rain Just singing in the rain /What a glorious feelin’ /I’m happy again I’m laughing at clouds/ So dark up above/ The sun’s in my heart /And I’m ready for love Let the stormy clouds chase /Everyone from the place /Come on with the rain I’ve a smile on my face/ I walk down the lane With a happy refrain /Just singing’/ Singin’ in the rain…”
(This song, I think, is expressive the optimism and confidence of Americans in 1950s.)
I tried to sing “Singing in the Rain” while walking our dog in the first autumn rain in the Pacific Northwest, and it made me happier.