|Rosa 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' & Hosta 'Paul's Glory' 23 September 2023|
In 1975 while living in Mexico, Rosemary convinced me that Mexico City was not a place for our two Mexican daughters and that we were to move to Canada. She added that I would not agree with Toronto’s snow or with Montreal’s French language. She said we were moving to Vancouver.
On our way there in our Mexican WW Beetle we stopped to see some friends in Seattle . They told us, “Why would you want to go there as it rains all the time?” That was our first inkling about a city where it is personally mandatory to change your windshield wipers once a year.
My previous concept of rain came from bitterly cold and dark Buenos Aires winters where it rained lots. We have an Argentine word for a persistently fine rain – garúa. ‘When it really pours we say, “Llueve a cántaros,” It rains buckets.
In Mexico persistent fine rain is called chipi-chipi. Until we left Mexico City in 1975, macho culture seemed to dictate that men did no use umbrellas if they did not want to be labelled effeminate. I did not own an umbrella. The dry season is from October through May but from June to September the rainy season it may rain on average once a day, though it rarely lasts longer than a few hours.
Rain in Mexico then was not the plain one they get in Spain. As rains fell it mixed with the atmospheric pollution to produce an acid rain that contained sulphurous dioxide which then became sulphurous acid. If you did not protect your car’s paint with lots of wax, the finish lost its lustre. I have no idea how breathing that rain may have caused damage to my lungs.
Today is the first day of fall and I noticed a rose, Rosa ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’(it was one of Rosemary’s favourites) so combined it with a wet Hosta ‘Paul’s Glory’ leaf knowing that I could use it to illustrate today’s blog.
I own a lovely dark blue umbrella that I bought many years from The Umbrella Shop. Sadly that wonderful Vancouver institution is gone so I am extra careful in not leaving my umbrella anywhere except in my hand. I wonder about the completely different meaning behind the word umbrella and the one in Spanish , paraguas. The English word sidesteps the obvious as it comes from the Latin for shade. In Spanish we are more direct as the word means “for waters”.
For me the best poem about rain is the one by Jorge Luís Borges here first in English and then in Spanish. There is a line : Rain is something happening in the past – La lluvia es una cosa que sin duda ocurre en el pasado. I wonder if Jorge Luís Borges had ever stayed in Vancouver, if he would have written about rain in the past.
The Rain :: J. L. Borges
The afternoon grows light because at last
Abruptly a minutely shredded rain
Is falling, or it fell. For once again
Rain is something happening in the past.
Whoever hears it fall has brought to mind
Time when by a sudden lucky chance
A flower called “rose” was open to his glance
And the curious color of the colored kind.
This rain that blinds the windows with its mists
Will gladden in suburbs no more to be found
The black grapes on a vine there overhead
In a certain patio that no longer exists.
And the drenched afternoon brings back the sound
How longed for, of my father’s voice, not dead.
[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Harold Morland]
La Lluvia – Jorge Luís Borges
Bruscamente la tarde se ha aclarado
Porque ya cae la lluvia minuciosa.
Cae o cayó. La lluvia es una cosa
Que sin duda sucede en el pasado.
Quien la oye caer ha recobrado
El tiempo en que la suerte venturosa
Le reveló una flor llamada rosa
Y el curioso color del colorado.
Esta lluvia que ciega los cristales
Alegrará en perdidos arrabales
Las negras uvas de una parra en cierto
Patio que ya no existe. La mojada
Tarde me trae la voz, la voz deseada,
De mi padre que vuelve y que no ha muerto.