One of the signature scenes in Susan Barry’s book, Fixing My Gaze, was when she spent her lunch hour sitting in the snow marveling at the dimensions of and space between snow flakes on a winter day in Massachusetts. She stared at the snow, leaving behind her lunch, in awe. A colleague of hers walked by and asked her what she was doing standing or sitting in the cold doing nothing. She tried to explain the amazing image before her, but her colleague couldn’t understand a grown woman’s newfound amazement at snow, something Barry had seen every winter of her life. I first read of this in Dr. Oliver Sacks’ article Stereo Sue and then I heard in in Barry’s NPR interview about her book.
Snow falls only on a blue moon in Silicon Valley, California, where I reside, so I wasn’t anticipating a Susan Barry moment. But it happened, for me it was with rain drops. That’s about as close as I can get to snow. Next time it hails, I’ll make sure to dress for the occasion and stand outside and admire the cross between rain and snow.
I walked out of the Cupertino library on a rainy evening sans umbrella and I had forgotten where I had parked my car. I walked toward the parking lot thinking that I’d recall my parking spot the closer I got to all the cars. The headlights of a car in the pick-up lane froze me. The bright light shined through the rain. The rain drops fell onto the ground and repelled from the cement in a V shape. Cold, wet and anxious to get home, I stood on the walkway motionless, staring at the raindrops. I must have looked like a but to anyone who walked by scurrying to get to their car before getting totally wet. I didn’t care because I’d never seen rain drops form a V when boomeranging off of the cement. “This must be my Susan Barry snowflake moment”, I thought to myself. The car drove away and then I couldn’t see the magnificent rain drops so clearly anymore. This could not have been my only time ever seeing rain illuminated at night by headlights. So there is something new in the way I am seeing. Perhaps I notice the distance more between rain drops and can better see the drops separately and can now appreciate them moving up and down. I don’t know exactly what is going on, but it was quite awesome. When we have rain again, I’ll go outside at night with a lamp to or strong flashlight and see what I can see.
If someone sees me enraptured by the sight of falling rain at night while holding a desk lamp outside to shed light on precipitation, I’ll just tell them I’m a rain-watcher and let it go!