In Which Ella Gets Caught in the Rain, Tells Stories from Middle School, and Visits Cecelia at Yale

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being caught in the middle of a torrential downpour without an umbrella.

Add to that carrying a backpack, a purse, a jacket (no hood), and a bag of books, and you’d have me standing outside of a very large train station this evening, trying to figure out the next leg of my trip home.

The books, thank God, were in a plastic bag from the Yale bookstore that completely protected them from the rain, but I had nothing to cover my body or bags. I watched the leather of my purse turn dark, the padded straps and back of my backpack began to retain water, and I could only imagine what was happening to the things inside of my backpack as the wet seeped through. My shirt was sopping and sticking to my skin like an extra layer of white and blue striped epidermis, and the front of my jeans were drenched. I had decided that I wasn’t even going to think about what my hair looked like, which meant, of course, that I was entirely focussed on it.

And then once I was finally indoors again, the really misery set in. I was sopping wet, and where I wasn’t, I was damp. And all I could do was sit still and wait to dry out. Let me tell you, it takes a very, very long time for jeans to dry and even longer for backpack padding. So when I had to pick my bag back up again to walk, my dry shirt was dry no longer.

But despite the fact that traveling home was not the world’s most fun experience, the trip was entirely worth it, and I have had worse experiences in the rain.

Keeping with the tradition of saving the good news for last, I’ll first share with you one of my rain horror stories.

When I was in middle school, I took the school bus to and from school every morning and afternoon. One day, it was raining. I didn’t think much of it when it started coming down at around nine, but by ninth period I began to get a little worried. The rain had not stopped, I was not dressed for the weather (I was wearing brand new suede Puma sneakers and did not have a jacket or umbrella.), and I could see giant pools of water forming wherever there was an indentation in the ground. An uneven sidewalk seam would create a lake. But then dismissal bell rang, and I ran out of the building, racing towards the buses, along with the other seven hundred students.

At that point, my biggest concern was how wet my shoes were going to get while I ran a block and a half home. (At this point of my life, I had decided that the optimal way of traveling to and from the bus stop was to sprint, completely hunched over with a very determined scowl on my face. My backpack was neon green, and I had strapped my lunch box to it at an odd angle, and it would thump loudly as I ran. It also occasionally would smack me on top of my head. In my defense, I was doing all of this when I was twelve, and now at eighteen, I walk upright with very few signs of complete insanity.) But then the bus started driving, and I noticed that we were taking a very different route. I first panicked, thinking that I had gotten on the wrong bus, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t and the route was just wonky because there was flooding.

I live on a hill at the base of a mountain, and there was no way for the bus to get to my or anyone else’s houses. We got let out over a half mile from home and had to wade across the train track through upper-shin-deep water. I took off my shoes, put them in my lunch box, and did it in my socks. For the next ten plus minutes, I walked in the rain through water of varying depths back to my house. Did I mention that it was early March and the temperature had significantly dropped since the morning?

But in the words of my first choir master, we’ve had our onions, and now it’s time for the orchids. (He said this when giving us reviews of our weekly performances in church. When I first heard it at the age of nine, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with onions. They’re in practically everything you cook! How were they somehow evil? And then my mother had me chop one myself, and my view entirely changed.)

But back to the present.

I got to see Cecelia! Albeit, it wasn’t even for twenty-four hours, but I’ll take whatever I can get. We walked all over campus yesterday afternoon as she gave me the grand tour of Yale.

Now, I have been to Yale a lot. It’s my parents’ alma mater, but seeing it from Cecelia’s eyes is entirely different, and to be perfectly frank, quite a bit more fun. We checked out the farm to visit the salad greens she had planted and explored her residential college. I met her incredibly nice and funny roommate. We ate dinner at my mother’s favorite New Haven restaurant and split a piece of carrot cake, only to eat double scoop ice cream cones five minutes later.

Later, we spent well over an hour in the Yale bookstore where I had the most awful time narrowing down my I-CANNOT-LEAVE-HERE-WITHOUT-IT list down to two: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. And then we watched a movie, which in typical fashion, meant that Cecelia fell asleep about fifteen minutes in.

The next morning, we had breakfast in a bookstore and went to the Yale Art Gallery. I have been having a torrid love affair with their third floor modern art exhibit for many years now, and this Ellsworth Kelly painting and I had a very happy reunion.

(If you ever have the chance, visit the Yale Art Gallery’s modern art collection. It is phenomenal.)

Sadly, after that I had to leave. But the Yale-Harvard game isn’t too far away, so I’ll be back soon.

In other news, I get to see Tal and hopefully Lily tomorrow! There might even be some visiting with Audrey! Long live trains and colleges’ fall weekends!

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Rain Again for Wednesday

Remember that time I wrote about being inside while it was raining? You know, yesterday? Well, it’s raining again right now, and yesterday’s storm is nothing compared to this. Someone might as well be dangling from the old maple trees in the front yards and pouring down huge buckets of water from the sounds it’s making on the roof. But there is no thunder. Oh, how I do love a good clap of thunder. The type of thunder that’s so shocking, deep, and loud that you feel it in your chest.

UPDATE: Never mind, there was just a giant bolt of lightening and some thunder. This girl is very happy right now. I do love a good thunderstorm. If it’s got to rain, it should at least do it with some passion.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Rain, the Bluish Tinge of Aquariums, Dancing With Scarves, And Wonderful Feelings

It’s raining.

And there’s something thumping against the side of the house.

But I am inside, separate from the deluge of water, caught in what seems to be one of the common situations ever written about: being inside and watching the rain fall.

And yet, even though it is so common, I rather like it. I like the safety of my second floor bedroom as the rain comes streaming down. I like the sound of the rushing water on the roof. I like watching the rain run in rivers down the side of the street, nestled against the curb, towards the storm drain at the end of the block.

It doesn’t have the same ferocious beauty of a thunderstorm or the brilliant calm of snow, my two favorite types of inclement weather, but it’ll do with its dull, somewhat depressing gloom.

When I look out the window, I’m reminded of the color settings on my camera, and how when you go to change the picture to black and white, there’s also an option for blue, which casts the image in that same sort of tinge you see inside of an aquarium, where the passages between the giant tanks of sharks and tropical fish–though never in the same tank together– are mostly lit by the light shining into the tanks, so that the animals are brighter than you.

The red shirt I was wearing when I ran by the stingrays at the age of ten appeared almost purple, exactly like the way the car across the street looks right now, and my green sandals were even more deeply saturated than usual, not unlike the front lawn and the shrubs along the front walk.

If it weren’t so late and if it weren’t so chilly, I would run outside without an umbrella or coat, not caring that my shirt is mostly white and that my jeans will take forever to dry. I’d go barefoot, because dancing in the rain  should be done in wild abandon, without any sorts of constraints. I’d let pieces of grass stick to my feet and dirt cover my toes, and I’d spin in circles and run leaping through the yard.

It would be like the movement classes I took at school until I was twelve. The classes where we would be handed grey gauzy scarves and told to portray jealousy while the teacher played classical music on the harpsichord. Sometimes, she would pass out balloons and tell us to throw them in the air and very carefully watch how they fell, the way they seemed to be caught and cushioned by the air as they drifted down into our reaching hands.

And so I would watch the rain and how it fell. I would hold out my arms and pretend I had scarves and just move in some sort of fashion that meant everything to me and looked a little loony to everyone else.

And it would be perfect.

But I’m inside, and I won’t be leaving tonight. I’m lying on my bed, propped against pillows, reading about Nicholas Tesla, watching videos online of beautiful things, like the Game of Life, people’s travels and thoughts, landscapes, and portraits made out of corkscrews, and looking at pictures of rooms so impeccable, they seem utopian.

Click on the picture for more house yum.

I imagine Tesla’s lightening and his infatuation for pigeons, the way that all brilliance is sprinkled with something mad. I think about the power of words and pictures and all things impossibly lovely and how they cast such a wonderful feeling over me. The sort of blissful feeling that makes me want to cry a little bit and smile all at the same time and just stay still breathing for as long as I can. I like to think of it as my love for the universe. And when I have that feeling draped over me, I just enjoy it. Because in those moments, nothing hurts.

Finally, when I feel as though I’ve soaked it in as much as I can, I put fingers to keys and write. Because, sometimes, I think that writing and loving things, people, and animals is what I do best. Also, it’s what I love most to do.

And so I am here, watching the rain pour down and drench the black, asphalt of the road, the granite curbstones, and the slate sidewalk. It makes the merciless grey concrete of the front walk shiny and the potted plants overflow as water pours over their terra cotta rims. And the grass and the plant bed soak in the wet, like a sponge, until they can’t anymore, and the water pools in indents in the earth. It creates droplets on the cars, and if I weren’t so far away, I could race the raindrops as they zigzagged their way downwards.

But I’m inside.

So here it is, my cliché and for once I love it.

In the spirit of trying new, creative things, I have made a youtube video of me reading today’s post.

(Yes, I know I stumbled over saying Tesla the first time, no need to point it out.)

I’d like to know what you think: Should I do this again for some other posts or is having me read it annoying or uninteresting?

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Ella the Worm-Saver to the Rescue!

Today, I participated in one of my favorite rainy day activities: worm saving.

I know that this all sounds very odd, but I’ve always had a fondness for worms. They’re immensely fun to hold. As a little girl, I would pick up the stones that lined my mother’s herb garden to look for them. (I once found one as nearly as wide as my pinky.) And when I was done carrying them around, I’d dig little holes in the ground and bury them, patting the earth three times and saying a prayer that they wouldn’t be eaten by birds. I’m older and wiser now, and I don’t go worm searching anymore, but I always keep my eye out for them. They’re just one of the many things perpetually on my radar.

When it rains, the water washes worms out of the ground and onto paved surfaces where they die by either being eaten by birds, being stepped on, or drying out when the water on the pavement evaporates. It’s tragic. So on days like today, I keep watch for them, and every time I spot one, I pick it up and toss it onto the grass or dig a tiny hole to bury it.

It’s a little thing, a kind of silly sport, but I can’t and don’t want to shake the habit. Worm saving has become just something I do. It feels normal and natural and like it’s my job. Also, a great part of me doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it as well. Isn’t it our job to protect other species that are suffering?

But I know, I know. Worms are “icky,” “gross,” and “dirty.” Touching them is weird. This habit that I am exposing is beyond strange.

But despite all of that, I like to think that it’s the little quirks that really make a person human, and it’s very hard to think of anything quirkier than worm saving.

A Green Volvo, Frozen Yogurt, Cecelia, and Me

Yesterday, Cecelia and I went to out to get frozen yogurt. And boy oh boy did I need it.

It had been raining all day and was as dreary as could be. By six o’clock it was completely dark out, and the rain was pounding the side of the house so hard that the raindrops were sticking to the windows and sparkling. I was exhausted. A long day at school and rejection from a school that you really wanted to go to will do that to you.

I had dragged the giant micro-suede ottoman over to a table and was perched on it trying to write an essay on a Cornel West quote and failing miserably. First of all, I think that he is a pompous twit, and second, writing expository essays without freaking out is near impossible for me. But despite all of these depressing factors, I was still a tad happy. Cecelia was coming to pick me up soon.

While she waited in Jeff the Stationwagon, I performed my usual mad dash through the house, trying desperately to put on rainboots and a coat and grab an umbrella all at once. Needless to say, I nearly fell over twice. Stomping my way through the water pooling in the yard, I hopped into the car, and we were off.

I love being in the car at night. Something about driving in the dark screams fun adventure. I can’t pin down why, but if I’m in a car at night, I never want to get out again. When we got to the yogurt place, we dashed through the pouring rain, umbrellas tilted a bit downwards to prevent the wind from pushing them inside out. Inside, I filled a cup with dulche de leche and chocolate yogurt and piled some blueberries on top, because they looked pretty.

Sitting at a white table, spooning the yogurt into our mouths, we talked about this year and what it means for everybody, how exhausting school can be, and how far I’ve come. It felt good to talk candidly. The hubbub and busy-ness of school prevent that sort of conversation a lot.

And the whole way home I just yapped about trivial things like the way that boys don’t seem to like me and how jealous I am of everyone who is getting into amazing colleges. But Cecelia is a good sounding board and always says the right thing in reply, so everything felt a little better.

And when I got back home, I felt less exhausted, a bit more possitive about writing that stinkin’ essay, and way more ready to conquer the world. Thank you frozen yogurt and Cecelia.