Interstellar Rain

Growing up, I loved thunderstorms. I’d sit with my window open, face pressed against the screen, watching and listening as lightning lit the sky and thunder pealed. The harder it rained, the better. If the gutters became rivers and the streets were ankle deep with water, I’d imagine that it was never going to end–that we’d have to take a boat to school the next day. In a weird way, I was praying for a flood. Any kind of deluge got me excited.

We had a lower green space not far from our house, like a valley between cul-de-sacs, which would fill with rainwater when the sewer system couldn’t handle the overflow. After a storm ended we’d sometimes walk down and discover that dim pools had bloomed across the lowest areas, deep enough to canoe in. Or we’d find flooded areas on the dirty flat plains not far from our street, before the land was developed with suburbs. The water would often be bluish-green, like something you’d find in a mountain lake. With the help of friends, we’d throw wooden pallets down in order to build bridges across–often only making it a tiny part of the way before the mud started sucking our platforms under.

We didn’t grow up near natural spans or torrents of water. I’m assuming that if you did, the neat-o factor wouldn’t be so measurable. In fact, you might have dreaded copious rain, when a nearby river would inch ever higher. The flood I’d been praying for would have been a devastating event for your family and home.

But for a kid on the prairies, all it took was a little rain and a pinch of imagination to believe that a storm could become something extraordinary. As we age, we lose that love affair with something so simple as the rain. The first few times it comes down in the spring, after all the snow has finally moved on, you might pause to watch. But there’s little fantasy in it. If anything, the rain is a temporary disturbance. It makes driving more difficult. It causes you to run from your vehicle to an indoor destination. You might not want to leave the house for the day if it means having to trudge outside into a sprinkle that won’t end.

A while back, a movie helped me re-think the rain–or remember it, in this case. Interstellar was one of my favourite movies of 2014. I loved the entire story and cast–that the earth was in shambles, and that our only hope lay out in the cosmos. The time-travel aspects of it were handled so well that seeing Cooper meet his daughter, Murphy, as an older woman, never fails to produce a few tears. I’ve seen it a dozen times, but each one feels fresh. The characters are relatable and generously fleshed out, allowing their motivations to resonate. While we hate Dr. Mann by the end, we can appreciate his sense of utter desperation when facing oblivion. And we understand why Cooper, having finally returned to earth and being reunited with his daughter, would head back out into the unknown without stopping to sample the future he helped create.

Where the rain comes in is a single scene: Dr. Romilly is having a hard time dealing with the deadly precariousness of their venture into space, but Cooper explains to him that he’s not seeing the beauty of their venture. Danger is inherent to their trade as bold explorers, and the ship they ride is but a boat barreling down uncharted waters. To finish the moment off, he lends Dr. Romilly his earbuds, where we hear the sounds of crickets, rain, and thunder. Instantly Dr. Romilly goes silent–almost pensive.

Afterwards, I purchased an audio soundtrack of a thunderstorm and would play it every so often. Whenever I felt myself slipping into worries about things that didn’t really matter, I’d try to go back to the thunderstorm: the steady pelting of rain on someone’s porch, distant crackles of lightning, and every so often a cow calling. It didn’t need to be a moment of deep mediation in order to be transported to that place.

It’s almost sad when we have to be reminded of the earth, while on the earth. Out in the depths of space, we’d be terribly homesick, but sitting here and now, we don’t recognize the magnitude of it. How often do we pause to listen to the moment? The rain is just one example among hundreds. How many of these limited earth experiences are we letting slip between our fingers because we refuse to stop and pay attention? We’ve isolated ourselves indoors, busy dealing with invented real-world problems. But the regret may come, one day, when we can’t turn back time and enjoy these occasions.

Take it from the man who seems to let nothing simple pass by him without notice: Jeff Bridges. When he first released his sleep tapes, it seemed like a gimmick to push Squarespace websites–which it was for Squarespace. But there’s more to it than that, and I suspect Jeff didn’t really care about the webdesign platform so much as a weird experiment he had in mind. On the “tapes” we’re treated to his philosophy, his strangeness, his inner monologues, and recordings of Jeff wandering around mysterious places, commenting on his surroundings–especially the track: Temescal Canyon. My absolute favourite, though, has to be Ikea. The whole thing is utterly bizarre, but it’s another example of someone taking the time to appreciate a fleeting moment, be it the rain, fine weather, or a possibly drug-induced, late night tangent of observations. I don’t think they’d actually function as sleep tapes because they’re just too damn fascinating.

Anyways, next time it rains, open a window, press your face against the screen, breathe deeply, and soak the experience in. If you’re ever called to travel millions of miles and slingshot around a black hole in order save humanity, you may not get to enjoy that moment again.

Featured image credit: Musicrelatedjunk



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