You’ve no doubt heard it said of those who aren’t thinking well that they don’t have enough sense to get out of the rain. I thought this was just a figure of speech until I became the father of two children who, well, sometimes don’t know when to get out of the rain.
The problem came to mind on Halloween weekend, when stormy weather blew across south Louisiana. Forecasters had predicted the deluge for a week, and I dutifully laid in fixings for cookies, casserole, red beans and rice.
The rain arrived on schedule, tapping a Morse code message on the roof that was easy enough to decipher: “Stay inside, stay inside, stay inside.”
As drizzle dampened the windows, my beans simmered on the stove, the steam whispering an old and familiar promise from beneath the pot lid: “Stay inside. Supper’s coming.”
Our terrier, whose brain is the size of a walnut, was still smart enough to know that no good could come from stirring in the yard during a downpour. He ventured no farther than the edge of the porch, comfortably dry as water pooled in the flower beds.
The city had rescheduled trick-or-treating to keep the kids safe. My wife and I had been invited to a party, but the hosts sensibly canceled, bowing to underwater roadways and a tornado watch.
There was no reason to go anywhere. I sat at the dining room table, working on my laptop and casting an occasional eye on the patio to make sure the barbecue grill hadn’t floated away.
That’s when my teenage son decided it was a great time to walk to the park to see his friends. We thought better of it and called him home, his judgment rivaled only by that of his sister, a college student who concluded that a weekend worthy of Noah was the right moment to attend an outdoor music festival. The organizers called the whole thing off, saving her from herself.
It isn’t news when young people crave the company of their friends, even if it means going through a gully-washer to do it.
But I sense something larger in my kids’ cabin fever, their restlessness part of some broader cultural itch that inclines us toward movement rather than reflection, the crowded itinerary instead of the quiet corner.
As rain hemmed us in for Halloween, I read Sven Birkerts’ marvelous essay, “Strange Days,” about his time at home recovering from surgery. The strangeness that Birkerts describes has little to do with his medical treatment but is really about the unusual feeling of finding himself with no need or obligation to go anywhere beyond his house.
“All of a sudden, I am more still in myself than I can remember being in a very long time,” he reports.
It’s the stillness that can come when storms force us inside, if only we have enough sense to get out of the rain.
Danny Heitman is on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.