Steven Yeh

The Music of Weather

It was in the excruciating dampness and heat of a rainy season’s tempestuous afternoon when I felt unusually preoccupied, perturbed, and lethargic. As an attempt to find inner tranquility through experiencing an alternative world, I grabbed a book from the shelf and started exploring a new realm. Engrossed in reading the novel, while flopped on my bed, the sounds of pouring rain, bellowing thunder, and roaring gusts outside the balcony window became trivial din.

Abruptly, my blissful focus was rent by the dreadfully blubbering child upstairs. As my attention shifted to my physical surroundings, more sounds cascaded in. The conspicuous quarrel of the family upstairs was punctuated with hollering exchanges between the parents and household objects being hurled harshly on the ground. These disturbing, violent thuds increased my fidgeting.

Amidst all the stormy cacophony, I unexpectedly heard a pleasing accordion melody being played by the elderly lady living downstairs. Enchantingly, the melody shrouded the disquieting altercation upstairs, combining the strident dialogue, crying child, rasping clatter, and rumbling storm sounds with the appeasing instrumental to create an amusement park-like ambiance. The swirling blend of sounds blasted me back to a sixth-grade school trip, when I hiked the ancient Hui-Hang Road trail in a storm …

Following one of the customary day-long hikes underneath a baking sun, my class had arrived at a village located in the middle of nowhere during a frigid evening. After dinner, I went outside and gazed up at a brooding sky. I noticed the clouds being tossed incessantly by the blustery wind, like moving curtains, obscuring the glowing pearlescent moon. The building heavy storm began affecting my classmates as they left the cafeteria to go to the dorm. Reluctantly, I broke off my contemplation and hastened to follow them. 

It was pitch black; everyone switched on their headlamps. Trembling from the freezing rural valley breeze, we all scurried as fast as possible. As I looked at my classmates far ahead of me, they seemed like cars moving along a highway. Looking back, I saw even more lights – so many of them in the unknown darkness that they sparked my imagination to wonder what could be lurking in the dark behind them. I sprinted even faster. Finally, racing up the staircase and across the corridor, I knocked on the door and stepped into my dorm room. It was warm and inviting. It was both a humble and convenient arrangement, but its clean, organized symmetry was still not home. At least I’m safe! I sighed, relieved. Having showered and brushed my teeth, I snuggled into my bed, gently closed my eyes, and fell into slumber.

A few hours later, out of the blue, came a curt, “Wake up!” My roommates, who had been playing video games throughout my brief sleep, speedily started dressing in their heavy cotton-padded rain jackets and pants.

“What’s happening? It’s dark and raining outside! Why are we waking up?” I questioned, baffled while glaring cursorily between them and the window. Checking my watch, I realized that it was, indeed, dark because it was merely two AM.

Stormy weather is an ornamental note in the music of life.

Seeing my roommates speedily dressing in their raingear impelled me to do the same, despite my still sleepily befuddled state and the gloaming weather. Even though it was my first time wearing this raingear, I had no time to think about how unbearably strong the artificial plastic smell was after ripping it from its packaging. Neither did I have time to notice how oversized or bulky it was.

All dressed in rain gear, we successively rushed downstairs for breakfast amid the inclement gloom before exiting the dorm in a queue to begin our hike.

At first, I could barely see my surroundings – not even the people in front of me. I turned on my camping headlamp, as did everyone else. We could only see the small area of the precipitous, rock-strewn path in front of us due to the brilliance of our headlamps. This created misgivings because of the mysteriously opaque unfamiliar surroundings just past our lit circles. My mind felt chilled after recalling about hiking-related paranormal stories which I had heard of on television before. By this point, our raingear was sopping from both the deluge and the tropical-rainforest humidity level. The artificial smell of the raingear began to fade and was eventually rinsed away by nature’s earthy smell of mud and leaves which permeated the air because of the swirling humidity and moldy dampness. The hiking head wrap on my neck, engulfed by my hoodie, was also drenched with sweat from walking ad infinitum without any awareness of time passing. Everyone was gingerly picking their way, using hiking sticks for security. We were apprehensive of tripping, slipping, slowing others down, or falling behind because of the hovering mist. Hours later, we had ascended a long way to an even tighter path, with adjacently stacked, slick rocks. Their surfaces had been washed by the precipitation, so they reflected under our radiant headlamps like crystals. With these weather conditions, one might well imagine how many people there were in front of me complaining.

“So clammy! Why are we even hiking in the rain?!”

“I hate this weather!”

“This is torture!”

The people behind me, however, were still relentlessly hiking in silence, without grievances, undeterred by our arduously grueling trek. Monotonously, hours passed. The sounds of thunder, wind, and waterfall-like showers gradually subsided. A new shade slowly emerged on the horizon; the choking blanket of morning mist steadily diminishing under its influence. At last, at our destination, the mountain peak, we saw the full bloom of the sunrise unfurl. 

“Hours hiking …”

“In the dark …

“Under that rain …”

“Challenging …”

“Unforgettable …”

“Surreal …”

“Strenuous and sodden …”

“I feel contented …”

The snippets of conversation from my friends, who had been hiking behind me, filtered in. Hearing their encouraging insights about the adventurous morning we had been through together, I felt a sense of fulfillment rushing through me. I felt a warmth so deep, it was as if the chilly coat of wetness clinging to me as I hiked back down the still slippery, steep slope had evaporated.

Another crash of thunder brought me back to the current storm, whilst still remembering the vivid contrast between my struggle in the long-ago storm and the relief I felt at seeing the breathtaking beauty that that storm had created.

Stormy weather is an ornamental note in the music of life; it colors my mood and influences my reactions. I respond to certain moods in books or movies or expect the characters to behave in certain ways, because of the weather. Rain and thunder reflect ominous actions, settings, or feelings. Having experienced the highs and lows of responding to storms, I consciously try to choose optimism and motivation instead of wind, rain, and thunder. Passing with appreciation or despondence is a choice. Truly, one day on Earth passes swiftly. I choose to hear the music despite the weather.

The “Music of Weather” was originally published in Southchild Lit.

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