The rain this time of year in Atlanta isn’t just a force of nature, it’s a way of life anathema to ‘most everywhere else. The drops are both reverie and reveille, all at the same time.
The atmosphere, it seems, is mourning the dying of summer. The earth is rallying its forces to prepare for winter. Its inhabitants seem uncertain about the current state of transition, yet remain captivated by the return to school, the throw of the ball, and other nostalgic tugs. In a relatively seasonless region, it’s an interesting night of flashes, deluges, and strange quietude.
The streets of downtown Atlanta in the latter part of the first decade of the twenty-first century are weirdly serene these days. The real estate boom of the millennium’s turn reached only corridors of the central city. A tornado hit, devastating some of its poorest pockets. A restaurant employee was murdered execution-style, allegedly by a gang as part of an initiation. Except for certain streets during weekday rush hour, this place is a bit of a ghost town. Remarkable for the capital of the New South, a city ostensibly too busy to hate, post-Olympics.
It’s nights such as these, as they turn into mornings, that I like to keep watch, with a Bud Light and some chips and a single incandescent bulb. I don’t want the night to end, and yet I eagerly await the light of day, a reminder of the confusing, timeless, suspended quality of this non-season. I feel things are changing, even though I might not know it exactly. I don’t want to sleep through the transition. It’s one of those seemingly rare occasions, where I’m aware of the awesome, slow passage of time. To bypass the experience would be a failure on my part. To be mindful to eek out a bit of vigilance not only interrupts my life, but removes me from my living of it. It takes energy and conscience, a determined sense of place, and ultimately a balanced removal from the landscape itself.
The older I get, the more I want time to slow. Oh my, no, I don’t think I can control time. Hardly! I’m more an observant fool. I become more aware of my wasteful respect for time, with the passage of each squandered season, with the fall of each weighty raindrop this morning. As the browns turn to grays and start balding (mimicking perhaps those beautiful, still-green deciduous trees out there in Oakland Cemetery), I increasingly respect these moments, times such as this summer-fall hour. It was never mine, and it will never return. Not for me, not for anyone, not even for God himself.
There’s a strange buzz out on the wet street at the moment. It turns into a hum, then a zip, finally back to a buzz, reverberating across the slickened asphalt. A Vespa, perhaps. Some sort of scooter.
The rain has become a slow trickle, coyly flirting with the intermittent airplane-guiding lights of the distant communications tower, just past the cemetery’s far side. The MARTA trains have long stopped clanging above MLK Jr. Drive. A few cars rush by, racing against the slush of steamy rain left standing on the roadside. Who would be out at this hour? What’s to do? Judgment, yes.
This is the urban South at mid-morning on a Sunday, in very late summer, which itches to be cooled into an early, early fall. A few of us are awake, keeping vigil for the sly peek of a season’s turn. We will be sleepy tomorrow, but we keep it company, the rain.