Wednesday, May 02, 2007

God, Thunderstorms and Dancing in the Rain

After writing 1 and 1/2 papers, I picked up my computer and went upstairs, staring disconsolately out my window. I could hear the thunder and thunder calls me; I am alive in thunderstorms like I am never alive during the rest of my life. Thinking to myself that I ought to finish my paper, I decided that the better option would be skipping in the rain.

So I danced down the stairs and outside, where I skipped up and down 34th street, gliding and twirling in the rain. I passed a man in a neon green shirt who gave me a big smile and said, "Having fun dancing?" to which I replied with an affirmative, joyful "Yes!" and proceeded to skip back toward Park. I was wearing beaded flip-flops and splashing in puddles so the water soaked my skin and glittered on my hair; it beaded on my nose and splattered my glasses. At the corner of 34th and Park I turned, and there I saw a couple. There was a flash of lightning that lit up the sky and the two of them kissed, right there, beneath the storm and thunder and the rain, caught by lightning, the wind whirling in their hair. It was utterly amazing.

After darting back a few more times, I determined to enlist my dazzling friend, M.R. I rushed upstairs to M.R's room, entered and said, "Come on, let's go dancing in the rain!" She was already dressed for bed but looked at me and the water in my hair and quickly decided to get dressed. Her roommate told me that she enjoyed my jubilation; I am always ecstatic when it is raining outside.

M.R., now appropriately dressed in Israeli sandals and a lovely black and white outfit, joined me in our gleeful dash down the stairs. We stepped outside and she ran so that laughing, I pleaded with her to slow down so that I could keep up, as I had no traction in my flimsy flip-flops. She agreed and we stood beneath the streetlights, caught by the magic that is New York lit by sparkling water droplets.

The water changed and shimmered beneath the lights, glowing red, then green, sometimes illuminating branches and the like. We skipped down 34th Street, turned onto Madison and turned again till 5th Avenue, shouting over the storm all the while. "This is God!" I shouted, the wind in my face and the water glittering my glasses; "This is God's lightshow and they're missing it; they're staying in the dorm to study and they're missing this!" It was grander than any play, the lighting was dark and gloomy and gorgeous by turns; the falling water sprinkling and dashing across the surface of the streets.

We strode briskly along, now singing snippets of songs and quoting from movies, our minds alive, darting from subject to subject. We decided that we'd better walk down 5th Avenue; I determined that "there's so much light here!" which would of course save us from the scary people who are ought at 11:20 at night and M.R. made fun of me. We dashed across streets and she slammed her feet against the water, telling me that she was "puddle-happy" as we danced through the night...

"We must cross the street here," I said, breathless, "we have to go stand on the steps of the New York Public Library so that we can tell our children later that we did it...that we went out in the middle of a thunderstorm and stood on the steps." But as we walked closer we saw that there were large green Bryant Park signs blocking the library, so I skipped up a couple of steps and smiled at the thunder and the golden streets, dazzling in the soft light of the streetlights.

Cars raced by and stirred up great sheets of spray, dashing against the sidewalk. Passerby held their umbrellas over their faces; we laughed at them, for why cover yourself when this is God's own show, the drama and wonder and life that we all crave? To walk in New York in the middle of a thunderstorm is, as I remarked, "the only time you'll get to see this place without people;" it was deserted, utterly deserted, and we, the umbrella people and the shining lights coloring the frenzied liquid spray was all that remained.

M.R. determined that we aim for Grand Central; we'd already reached 42nd so we turned off in that direction. "I love you!" I shouted because she is one of the only people I know who would do this with me, who would come with me in the middle of the night to face God alone, God in his thunder and majesty and glory, in the glory that is the water and the light. She slapped me on the back, hard, and grinned at me; her hair plastered to her face; her skin covered with slippery droplets and I knew that we would be friends for the rest of our lives.

Now it is cold and our clothes are plastered to our bodies; the rain has intensified and I shriek over it, still dancing and twirling and darting about, "It's intensifying; it's intensifying!" and she nods her head in agreement as we pause and look at the golden lights by Grand Central, coloring the water and making it glow. We splash through puddles and I am smiling, smiling so that only she can see, not caring if there is anyone else who can watch me for I am free, free, free and alive.

It becomes colder and we must head back; we cross in the middle of the street and turn back to Park; I decide that now would be a perfect time to do the Macarena. My skirt has turned around on itself but I don't notice; I'm still smiling and laughing. M.R. is singing and whistling and humming; at one point I murmur HaTikvah under my breath because I want to praise God and thank him but I don't know how. I stop at a streetlight and say, "God!" and throw my hands open and let the rain shower down on me, "Thank you! Thank you for the thunder and the lightning because I like it," and I smile and I hide my eyes as I look at the sidewalk.

We pass by the Pershing Building and another place that is lit by violet lights; we look into yet another building that boasts a sea-green marble floor flecked with white. We decide that this floor is pretty. We walk by a gentleman and I smile at him and shout, "Good evening!" and he nods and says the same back to me and M.R. says that the next time I do that I ought to give a little bow. We pass by a black umbrella thrust inside of a garbage can; it is marooned and I point to it excitedly. We pass by more people and I wish them a good evening; whomever I wish it to wishes it back to me. I laugh about this happily and M.R. tells me that it is because I'm the crazy lady, and if you don't wish the crazy lady a good evening- who knows! She might jump at you!

It is cold now and the rain chills us; my hair clings in wet tendrils and lies cold on my face; I shake my head and smile. We are back at Park now and M.R. pulls me aside and tells me to watch the rain falling through the scaffolding but I can't see it because my glasses are wet, so I wipe them on my shirt and put them back on and there, there, it looks like snow- it's falling but it is lit by light so that it is lit snow and I exclaim this out loud. "Lit snow!" I say, "It is rain, but it's lit up!" and then I step into the street and M.R. says "Whoa!" because I didn't even notice the taxi trying to turn.

So we walk back inside and the security guard looks at her and me and her eyes open wide and she asks, "What happened to you?" But the other security guard starts dancing and says, "You girls been dancing in the rain?" and I nod exuberantly, my wet hair falling in my face and she says, "Oh, I love that" and she starts dancing and singing from 'Singing in the Rain.' I am fierce in my joy and I say "Yes!" and I dance a little alongside her and then we go up the elevator and into our rooms and shower and now I am telling this to you so that you might know the joy and the glory that is the rain in New York City.


Unknown said...

So interesting, because tonight, this is what I dreamed...

Right before I left work, a friend asked me if I thought that dancing in the rain would help them finish their essays. I responded simply, "It might!" They cheered happily, and didn't say much more.

As I rode home from work a number of minutes later, I was talking on the phone with a wonderful friend. I asked the driver of the Cadillac I was in to stop for a moment on 34th street, but he stopped on the wrong block. I told him to move up, but then he went too far, though the large garbage truck in his way didn't help any. I decided to step out and enjoy the pouring rain - hoping to get a glimpse of what, I don't know - all the while on the phone, albeit it very distracted, unfortunately, when I heard excited voices in the background of the other end of the call.

Suddenly, I thought I heard a commotion, and I spun quickly around. There were two figures moving rapidly away, on the other end of the block. It looked like they were running, when suddenly it seemed that one stopped - then the other - then the first one suddenly sped and started skipping, almost leaping in the air! It was a moment that looked like pure joy: A figure caught in midair, the rain swirling around it, almost like Mary Poppins without an umbrella.

I quickly asked my friend on the phone if someone had just been in her room - she responded that the person had just run out. I walked to the end of the block where I'd seen the fleeting figures, but alas, they were nowhere to be found. I looked up and down, across and back... but somehow, they'd disappeared. Perhaps they were just figments of my imagination, but I could have sworn I saw them.

I waited a number of minutes, talking on the phone all the while. When I finally got off, I re-entered the car, having enjoyed the rain. I tried calling the friend who I thought I had seen... but to no avail. I finally let the driver speed me home, where I stayed out in the rain, hands outstretched, for a few moments before finally coming inside.

"What's so funny?" my wife asked. "Nothing", I responded. "I just love the rain sometimes." She smiled and we walked up the stairs.

What a dream. The rain always leads to pleasant dreams.

the only way i know said...

Hey Chana,

THAT was exhilirating!
Thanks for taking us with you through the rain and thunderstorm..

I would do the same - in the rain - although the streets of London are less exciting than the streets of my wonderful Manhattan (yes, it is my Manhattan too although I upped and moved once I married)

I'm glad you're smart enough to enjoy life as you do!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hey Chana - That was awesome...Thanks for sharing your dance in the rain!

It's usually much colder here in Israel when it rains, so we rarely get to have a fun dance in the rain because its so cold.

However, we do have an official family rain dance, to MAKE it rain.

If we're lucky, it works some of the time...

Sarah Likes Green said...

thank you for sharing that. it really cheered me up, made me smile. the joy that you conveyed, your vivid description made me feel like i was there with you, dancing in the rain. i've been dreaming all week of doing something fun and frivolous and carefree (that doesn't involve copious amounts of alcohol) like that, to just escape reality for a few minutes and clear my mind. thank you :)

i wish it would rain here. it doesn't rain enough and we have water restrictions in place because of the drought.

Anonymous said...

You made me laugh.

the apple said...

YUM! I've always wanted to do something like that, but have never had the guts . . . now I can dance vicariously!
thanks Chana!

smoo said...

I so enjoyed your excursion and vicariously felt your exuberance. Yet at the same time, I’m so envious and jealous of that time of your life when you can be so carefree; a time I can no longer access. Alas, a failed marriage, MANY children, all coupled with poor finances have stolen my spirit. That brought a tear to my eye. Sorry to rain on your parade.

M.R. said...

Jameel--you can too stomp around in the rain all day in Israel. It really concerns a lot of people, and every third person you meet tries to give you an umbrella or pull you under a bus shelter, but once you explain that you're just crazy that way, you just love the rain, people smile back and vicariously let you be crazy.
(Of course, even wearing a long trench coat doesn't mean you won't be *freezing* and soaked at the end of the day, but freezing soaked and *happy*. After all, in Yerushalayim, it's MY rain, and it's gishmei bracha, and it really is G-d talking to us, really and truly...)

Looking Forward said...

I enjoy rain as well, always have, but I was always to afraid to go dancing in the rain, coupled with my utter lack of any clothes appropriate for the excursion.

SemGirl said...

I received this email a few minutes ago

p.s. check out "curious jews" blog i think she is amazing- she looks
at everything so positive...

I am very that I did, you always cheer me up.

Miriam said...

That was a wonderful though vicariously lived reprieve from a paper I need to be writing now. I remember I once wrote a similar essay in high school about the joys of cycling in the rain...Thank you Chana.

Anonymous said...

i am the only person i know who loves the rain. i love the sound, the sight, the calms me, inspires me, just makes me happy. this morning, in Upstate NY, I was so happy that my house has a skylight in the kitchen so I can enjoy the rain with my morning coffee. i have always, always loved rain.

Erachet said...

Wow! I happen to LOVE thunderstorms, I don't know why, I guess their energy invigorates me! :D Take me out next time on your rain dancing excursions!

Jacob Da Jew said...

Fantastic post!

I found your blog via the jibs, I'm in the same Category of Best posts.

I love to bike ride through the rain too, in Prospect Park. Gets real dirty and muddy but oh so much fun!

Batya said...

Fantastic post!
All because Irina linked me and I read that post!
You wrote about my favorite part of Manhattan.
I was a Stern girl before most jbloggers were born.