It's not so much the rain, which has been a daily occurrence around here for weeks, as what comes in its immediate wake: The clouds, still gray, but not so dark, and rushing to the east; the sudden drop in the temperature, as if the mood of nature itself has shifted; and of course, the wind, no longer furious as at the height of the storm, but still insistent, making limbs tremble and grass bow to its will. Sometimes I only catch glimpses of this spectacle, on my way to and from work, yet it's enough. My mind reels briefly, and I fall back.
Back to where, exactly? To a school bus. I'm five, or seven or nine, sitting next to the window, as I almost always did, trying to ignore the overpowering din shattering my eardrums, a singalong of Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall or discussion of a TV show from the night before or...I can't remember anymore. It was my reality, nearly every day between late August and the end of May, and yet I can't remember much about life on the school bus.
Except how the mood always changed when we drove through a storm. We were farm kids; as young as we were, we knew all too well the consequences of bad weather. Conversation would dwindle to nothingness, the only sound the THUMP-THUMP of the windshield wipers as they chased each other back and forth, steely sheets of water soaking the beanfields and cornfields that were the only scenery on the way home.
Then the rain would stop, or at least lighten, and the winds diminish, the bus no longer shaking furiously. Voices would return, tentatively, and the conversation and the singing and whatever else broke out again, but never at the same full volume.
A pleasant background hum, never distracting, and I relaxed, finally able to dig out a book and read. But what was I reading? Whatever I'd checked out from the library that day. There were so many books, and I read them with passion, but how odd: I can't remember a single title or premise of any of them. I lived under their spell briefly, but they are forgotten now. Still, it's enough to know that they existed, that they gave me comfort, that under those cold gray skies they provided a literal shelter from the storm.