“Do you want to go for a swim in the rain?” flashed on to my phone screen.
I was sitting at my desk, dry and cosy, listening to the constant dripping on my tin roof.
The least sensible thing to do seemed to head outside to get wet. Yet it was also the thing that sent an excitable tingle through my entire being.
Putting on my still damp bikinis, I grabbed a towel and headed out to pick up my friend.
Within half an hour of that message we were in the water.
The sky above us was mysterious in its charcoal cloudiness and there was a mist covering the ocean that made us look as if we were disappearing as we walked towards it.
As we jumped the approaching waves and the water splashed in our faces, we chatted and giggled and nothing felt more normal in that moment than swimming in the rain.
I thought back to the week after my father got diagnosed with cancer. I’d gone for a walk in the rain sans umbrella. I had so desperately wanted to feel life. To know I was here. To experience my humanness.
A friend who knew I was out in the stormy weather, messaged me on my return. “That must’ve been a sodden walk,” he wrote. It was, but as my runners squeaked from the flooding and my t-shirt awkwardly stuck to my bra, I couldn’t help but smile through my tears.
We have this tendency to protect ourselves from life. Our metaphorical rooftops and umbrellas come with us everywhere. How often we forget to live in fear of dying, or being hurt, yet when the possibility of death rears its head, all we want to do is live.
We came here to feel the wild winds. To smell the burning fires. To experience another’s soft touch. To breathe the cool air. To hear laughter and screams. To taste the salty sea.
In the 90s movie, City of Angels, the character played by Nicholas Cage decided to give up eternity as an angel for a chance at life; for a chance to love, to embrace, to feel.
Courage in it truest form. The courage to have no guarantees.
As I’ve wandered the streets of my hometown and the memories of my mind in the months since dad’s diagnosis, the things that trip me over, the things that make my heart ache with a mix of pain and joy, have been moments. Simple moments; extraordinary in their ordinariness.
I’ve remembered touch. Hands wrapped around me. Hands entwined with my own. Hands covering my school folders with perfectly cut contact paper. Hands helping me to climb a mountain. Hands teaching me to drive.
I’ve remembered sound. The loud crack as the fireworks filled the sky at the annual Royal Melbourne Show. The chuffing of the puffing billy train as it came down the track to pick us up for a ride.
I’ve remembered smells. The tall pine trees that lined the road to our summer holiday motel in Phillip Island. The whiff of barbecue smoke as we cooked steak and fried onions by the river bed in the high country of Thredbo.
I’ve remembered tastes. The stringy cheese on our sunday night margarita pizzas. The unusual grassy sweet flavour of the first shandy that touched my lips at a pub in Wilsons Promontory.
I’ve remembered sights. The vast burnt Australian landscape as we went on one of our regular driving trips. The relieved look in my dad’s eyes as we crossed paths at 5am; me venturing home from a big night out, him going to work.
I’ve remembered the things that made me feel.
Two years ago, for my father’s 70th birthday, I created a book of our life together with all our precious stories. I cried tears of nostalgia as I filled the pages. The night he was diagnosed, unable to sleep, I curled up with the book in my shaking hands, crying again, this time for the pages I’d yet to fill.
He may be here for a short time or a long time. No one knows. None of us really know how long we are here for. But these life-changing events catch us. Make us spot what is real. Make us spot what counts.
These past months I’ve spent more time walking around in my barefoot beauty; savouring hugs and kisses; licking up the sauce on my plate with my finger; gazing into the eyes of loved ones; lying awake at night listening to the crashing waves calling into my room; and eagerly following the moon around the house so as not to miss its glow. Sometimes with such a burning desire to feel that it hurts.
Life is lived in these moments and life is remembered in them too.
The books of my childhood seem filled with more wisdom as I get older. A boy named Charlie once remarked, “One day, we will die Snoopy…” as a sage dog replied, “Yes, but every other day we will live…”
And every other day we can swim in the rain.