The blackbird has a song that is made for rain. Perhaps it is the mournful tone of its tune, or the way it pierces the stillness before a storm. Perhaps it is the way the song haunts me, so sadly beautiful it makes my heart ache. You’ll usually find the blackbird at the highest point in a landscape, trilling its lament. For as long as I remember, I’ve associated the bird with rain. Its song is loud and lonely in the quiet before the rain comes and in the blurred aftermath among the soft drip of raindrops from the leaves. When the landscape is quiet and expectant and I hear the blackbird sing, I know it’s about to rain.
My first memory of writing takes place in the rain. I must be about ten and I’ve been to Brownies on a Friday night. I’m with my father and we’re waiting for the bus home. Dad stands watch outside while I sit in a bus shelter, dark and rain-washed, writing my version of a Nancy Drew mystery in a black, hard-backed exercise book with red corners. I must have written stories and essays before for school, but this is the first time I remember writing for fun. The story wasn’t my own, but something in it made me pick up a pen and try to write it in my own words.
Since then, I have always associated rain with creativity. Perhaps it’s my watery soul, but there’s something about rain that never fails to inspire me. When the sky darkens, my body responds. There’s a tingle, an expectation, a melancholy, that makes me want to write. I prefer to be tucked up behind glass, preferably with nowhere to go and nothing to do. With rain that is heavy enough to patter on the windows, drum on the roof and blur the landscape beyond the glass, like melting wax oozing down the pane. Or to be walking among trees, where I can hear the thrum of the rain on the leaves and smell the wet vegetation.
I appreciate rain in all its guises. The glowering sky of a downpour or the bright eerie light heralding a thunderstorm. A rising wind bringing rain on its tails. The fat, heavy droplets that stain the ground with splodges, or the drench of fine summer rain. I love the gurgle of rain in the gutters and rushing down drainpipes. The swirl of water on tarmac and the dance of ripples in puddles. Rain has its own discordant melody: a humming, stuttering, hissing song . It isn’t always easy when you’re in it, particularly the needles of rain that have the promise of winter in them. But rain soaks the senses, so it’s no surprise that it stimulates creativity.
Rain wakes up the land. Deep beneath the earth, seeds that lie dormant sigh in exhilaration as the rain drenches them. Shoots unfold, desiccated plants expand and fungi fruit. Rain wreaths the earth with its own scent: the brassy petrichor of soil, stone and parched vegetation. The scent of rain is a hint on the air, just like the blackbird’s song, telling me that the storm is coming. And my creative instinct stretches and flexes its muscles, waiting for the deluge.
And when the storm is over, rain brings the world into focus. The world is softer, but more pronounced. There is a stillness after rain, just as there is a stillness before it. Spent raindrops create their own drowsy percussion. The voices of birds, quieted by the storm, re-appear jubilantly. Colours are more vibrant and the musky scent of the earth simmers in the air. The end of the storm feels celebratory, perhaps only because the rain is over or perhaps because it has revived the landscape. And for the length of a storm, my creativity has been revived too.