“A feeling of sadness and longing that is not akin to pain,
and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles the rain.”
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is something very elemental about rain.
I don’t mean elemental in the sense of the elements and the molecular construction of water but rather elemental as the meaning of something intrinsic. Built-in. Essential.
One of my favorite movie lines is “God is in the rain.” In movies, we often see rain used as a symbol. A girl follows her beloved into the storm, calling out to him as the rain sluices over her skin. Her hair is a tangled, sodden mass obscuring her vision. Beaded droplets of water shimmer like translucent tears over her cheeks and lips, dripping off of her chin. He turns, sees her standing in the rain—just staring at him with mouth agape as water pours over her. He returns and they embrace.
Or another…An injured man staggers from the wreckage of some tragic incident. He emerges into the fury of a sky unleashed just to stumble and fall to his knees. His bowed and tortured form is battered by an onslaught of rain. As the clouds pour out their sorrow, shoulders that were hunched in defeat relax and straighten. The man tips his head back, offering his face to the sky as he closes his eyes and drinks in the freedom that comes from feeling the rain.
There are dozens of other scenarios. Funerals. Escape. Romantic endings. Why is this method of portrayal often used? It’s elemental.
I was seventeen years old when I first learned the word Catharsis. Merriam Webster defines it as: “to cleanse or purge; purification or purgation of the emotions primarily through art; bringing about spiritual renewal or release from tension.”
For me, someone had finally described that tightness of skin, the swelling behind my breastbone that became unbearable until it was assuaged by exposure to the elemental. I have never forgotten the word and have returned to it many times through my life.
Now and then, a pressure builds inside of me. Undetected, it slithers up my veins, coils around my lungs, and multiplies. It is gradual, like a pot of water brought to boil in small increments. Just when I become aware of it, the water bubbles over in a rush of steam and heat.“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”
-–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Sometimes, when I need it most and can’t have rain, I stand under the deluge of my shower and suck in air as though it’s my last. Wet ribbons bathe my skin and wrap around me, giving me my own personal storm. I stand beneath the force and breathe, letting everything else swirl and vanish down the drain. Catharsis.
I believe that the reason we seek out rain for those defining moments (both in fiction and reality) is because we confront nature and are comforted in the encompassing power. I am swallowed beneath the downpour and scoured clean by the flood. There is more in the storm than the strength, more than the crash of thunder and torrential cascade. There is the divine.
God is in the rain.