Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rain And Clichés

Water, wine and blood. They represent both life and death, possibility and a terminus. When I see and hear rain wherever I am becomes my birthplace, the ocean, Eden and a cemetery. It ties me to all life at all times and it foretells my death.

At one point I tried to catalog all of the songs I could think of that were about rain or at least used rain imagery. There were too many. There were far too many. Rain symbolism, in all its forms, is a cliché.

My sister once told me that she was interested in clichés because there had to be a reason an idea or expression graduated from use to over-use. She said she suspected that a cliché needed to have a special kind of underlying truth. When expressed, this truth resonated with so many people that when they repeated it a threshold was crossed and the audience soon found it tiresome, yet still largely true.

So it is with rain.

There are two kinds of graveside funerals in film. In one the cemetery is ironically sunny and beautiful, presenting the survivors' grief in relief against their surroundings. In the other the funeral party is oppressed by rain, surrounded and saturated by the reality and finality of death. Their efforts to cope are washed away in rivulets, small but unstoppable. Water always has its way. In addition to life and death water is time.[1]

This morning it is raining. I love the sound. It grounds me and makes me feel connected to all sorts of good things and to a healthy kind of sadness. Since it has been done, and over-done, should I write about it? Rain imagery is clichéd but like the river of time[2] it is such a powerful symbol it's also a shame not to use it, unless we are going to quit talking about life, death and time.

Water, wine and blood. Rain, river and ocean. Life, death and time. Love, sex and friendship. Parents, teachers and children. If we didn't repeat ourselves we couldn't talk at all.

[1] There is a third, the winter graveside scene. I think this is a variation, a more subtle version of the rainy funeral. Snow and ice are water in league with cold.

[2] One of my favorite sayings is that you can't step in the same river twice. It's true in so many ways and for so many reasons. At the same time, it gets its punch from the objective fact that it isn't true. No matter how many time I step in and out of the Mississippi it will still be the Mississippi when I come back later. So, while I think it a lot, I try not to say this one too often. I think it irritates people.

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