How to Dodge Raindrops

“What do you think of that rain coming down?”

The question wasn’t directed at me, so I continued reading “Romeo e Giulietta” on the bus home.

“That’s a bit of my magic out there,” the man’s raspy voice continued.

The bus was silent.

“Wanna know how I did it?”

I looked up in time to see a woman shake her head at the gargantuan fellow holding onto the grab bar above her, draped in an oversized Gortex jacket that dripped onto the floor.

Her face was pinched and uncomfortable. She tried to ignore him.

“I danced this morning,” he said, his long dark pony tail shaking with laughter. “I did a rain dance, and look how it’s coming down! My father taught me how to do it, and his father taught him. Our family can always bring the rain.”

The woman turned her head away, as if the foggy windows held something captivating. The bus was silent again.

“I could teach you how to stay dry, though,” he offered. “My people know how to bring the rain, but we know how to walk between the droplets, too. You white people, you use umbrellas or you go inside, but my people can walk through pouring rain and never get touched by a drop.” At this he threw back his round head and laughed.

She didn’t respond, but I hoped he would continue. Finally, he said, “Don’t worry, miss. I’ll do another dance tonight, and we won’t have any rain tomorrow.”

She sniffed, unconvinced.

When I walked by him to exit at Mercer, he cackled, “Stay dry out there, young lady,” with an exhale of cigarette-and-beer-laced breath, to which I responded, “Oh, I will!”

Though the rain had let up in Lower Queen Anne, which made carrying groceries easier, the man’s comments stayed with me as I trudged home on slippery sidewalks carpeted in wet leaves. He had me thinking about how I interact with nature and the world in general. In Civita, I spent more hours of the day outside than I did inside, even in the rain; back in Seattle, the exact opposite is true.

It’s more than that, though. It’s the mentality that he was talking about — the idea that life sends certain people ducking for cover, whereas others believe that they can walk in between the raindrops. What I gained in Civita is like that.

As pressures mount from all sides this week, I can see my own protective air space threaten to shrink. There will never be a do-or-die moment, but a slow release of magic; that’s what’s truly flawed about this American life. Time moves fast and we are so removed from nature that it’s easy to miss when our magic is released each day. We’re consummately distracted — even distracted from our distractions.

One day, we wake up and wonder where the magic went. The next, we forget we had any grasp of magic at all. That’s when we dive for our umbrellas.

What surprised me most was how right the man was: my culture tells me that I should seek technology or shelter –something apart from my own power– to shield myself, whereas his directs him to look inward for magic and resourcefulness.

Discovering that truth –the magic that one can create on the inside– while I lived in Civita is what made my experience so special. Yet, now that I can pinpoint it, I see how it’s also made me feel a bit “outside” of my own culture since my return.

Remaining outside will be an ongoing challenge…and goal.

Several people passed me on their way down Queen Anne hill, umbrellas engaged, yet I couldn’t feel a sprinkle. I laughed at my newfound ability to walk sans bumbershoot, and thought back to something said during the Pause Convocation by an American woman who has lived in Manila for the past 12 years. Ann pointed out that the longer one lives as a foreigner, the more “outside” she realizes she is, rather than assimilated.

I wonder if that isn’t the underlying draw for those of us who seek a life abroad; it’s a way to remain “outside” while building up one’s magic.

Just before I stepped underneath the awning of my apartment building, a big raindrop went splat! in the middle of my forehead.

Apparently, learning to walk in between the raindrops takes practice.

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2 thoughts on “How to Dodge Raindrops

  1. A Native American woman described her life of living in two cultures as “We walk in both worlds”, and a friend who grew up in the Middle East and has lived in the states for many years “I don’t belong to either culture now”.

  2. I’m not sure that the disconnection from the outdoors is so much an American thing as it is an intersection of weather, habits and design. In Wyoming, people were very outdoorsy, but it was all about activity, not stillness. In Tucson, I knew a lot of people who used their outdoor spaces as extra rooms. Surprisingly, the English are also good at this. They build these little walled gardens that are akin to outdoor rooms. I think that Americans tend to plunk down a house in the middle of a big lawn and there is little thought about the scale of the space or the feeling (illusion?) of privacy… other than putting up a fence or trees at the property line.
    My experience in Italy has either been apartment buildings with terraces that people don’t actually use, or chalets in the alps, where things were set up like an American cabin. Sounds like your Italian experience was fundamentally different.

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