He got on the elevator wearing Oregon business casual, which is not the chinos and polo shirts of other places’ business casual, but blue jeans, nice shirt, denim jacket. He had the tan face and wide jaw and high cheekbones of someone who might be an Indian, and his wavy hair, pure white, had been pulled back into a pony tail.
“How do you like this weather?” he asked.
Now most people consider that an easy question. It was a December evening, pitch black at 6 p.m., temperature in the mid-40s, and raining. Most people have an opinion about weather like that, and it’s not positive.
But the question stumped me. I have trouble having opinions about weather. It’s like having an opinion about gravity. It shapes me more than I can shape it, and whether it’s at any given moment convenient or inconvenient for me is of no consequence in the grand scheme of things.
The other thing, and this is perhaps a dirty little secret, is that I like rain. Western Oregon is a green place, and the rains are the life-giving nurturers of our evergreens and spring flowers, the moss that grows on the trunks of trees and the roofs of houses, the ferns and lichens and ivy, the fruits and vegetables that we’ll enjoy next summer. Against a gray sky, the greens are brilliant and many-hued.
I also don’t mind being in rain. I don’t like water splashing my face, but when my glasses are protected from the raindrops making little plock! sounds as they hit the brim of my rain hat, I notice how remarkable it is that water falls from the sky.
When my Southern California nephews (now adults) were small boys, they came to visit, and on a rainy day, they ran to a puddle and shouted, “Circles!” Those young men may have forgotten circles (I haven’t asked them recently), but I still see the circle, because children pointed them out.
So the man got on the elevator and asked me my opinion of the weather, and I couldn’t think of anything to say. He looked at me as if I’d driven an SUV into the building and said he’d been out in it all day. The door opened, and he got off.
I left class at 10 p.m. and drove through the rain-washed streets of downtown Portland, which reflected the Christmas lights as bright as day, ablaze with the promise of the Incarnation.