Friday, March 02, 2012

The Pleasures of Drear

Don’t let the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any such word as “drear” bother you…it’s a nice word which should exist even if it doesn’t.

Today was what undoubtedly most people in Chicago consider to be dreary (get the connection?): heavy, heavy overcast, drizzle and light rain mixed with torrential rain mixed with wisps of fog, chilly winds…sort of a picnic-on-the-moors, Hound of the Baskervilles day. And I love it.

I’ve always liked it when Mother Nature shows emotion. Anybody can enjoy sunny skies and puffy clouds and warm, gentle breezes, and I like them, too. But it takes a special outlook to be able to appreciate days that drip with lugubriosity (I just made that one up, too). One of the reasons I left Los Angeles after eighteen years there was because that was about all there was: sunny skies, puffy clouds, etc. Every single day was June 25. You could plan a picnic six months in advance and be almost guaranteed that it would be a sunny day with puffy clouds and warm breezes. Los Angeles days tend to be like one of those perky little sitcom stars who is just always so…well, perky…that you want to throttle her.

Ah, but “drear” has it’s own quiet pleasures. Sitting comfortably indoors looking out through rain-streaked windows at the trees swaying wetly as they listen to the whispers of the rain, offers a rare form of comfort. Safely inside, watching the umbrella’d people scurrying along the glistening streets, cars’ tires like the bow of a ship sending up little sprays of water to each side, neon lights reflected off the sidewalks, the passing elevated trains shooting off sparks from their wet wheels on the electrified track…it’s all very comforting, somehow. It’s rather like my other favorite calmative pastime, walking through a cemetery, reading tombstones.

Drear provides the backdrop and sets the mood for quiet contemplation and reflection, and if there is the sound of rain to create background music, all the better. Granted, some fine-tuning of one's thoughts is required to keep out the static of regrets and longings and missed opportunities, or errors made, but once you’ve got everything right on pitch, it’s wonderful.

I also enjoy, still using music as an analogy, when Nature segues from quieter contemplative pieces featuring fog and overcast and soft rain, to the full orchestrals of storms: booming tympani of thunder, cymbal crashes of lightning, full-brass of wind and fierce rain…watching the trees, as if they were dancers caught up in some frenzy of emotion, whipping back and forth. I love it!

I remember once, as a teenager, during a terrific thunderstorm in the middle of a summer night, getting out of bed to stand in front of the open window and watch it. I was between the drapes and the window for a better view. My mom came in to close the window, thinking I was asleep. When she moved the drapes aside to get to the window, I scared the wits out of her, poor thing. (And you see? Even thinking of that on a day like today gives me pleasure and comfort rather than the sorrow of knowing it could never happen again.)

Life is full of drear. It’s how we see it and react to it that makes the difference.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Eleanor Raif said...

I feel very much the same way.
Today is a dreary day here and I love it.
I love to stand outside in the grass, which is brilliant green under the gauze of clouds - as if it too is exuberant at the liquid life falling from the sky.
I love seeing thick blankets of gray in all directions, and I feel a bit sad when I see that the sky is clearing. I always long for more. Alas, I live in Texas and you've only to wait a day for the weather to be something else entirely. Except snow, sadly. Years in Colorado bent me towards that and living in the mountains gave me a healthy respect for frigid weather.

Anyway, I think it boils down to gratitude. If we were tramping around in the muck out there we might not love rain so much, but from within our snug homes it is a clear reminder that we are warm and snug - and loved too. We are protected. Also serenaded by the sweet sound of water and promise of life.

Life is wonderful.

I love the memory you shared of your mother. I remember several times as a kid watching the lightning from in the house with my mother or brother there, watching too, way out in the podunk central Texas town I grew up in. Then the chorus of frogs that came after the rain, a haunting sound I remember fondly.

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks for taking the time to write, Eleanor. I'm glad to hear you enjoy a dreary day as much as I do.