hat season of the witch has befallen almost-summer Rome? None that I have ever before encountered. Day after day, now weeks, of a lavishly dark and fearsome thunderstorm striking each late afternoon, as if by clockwork.
Since the start of the month these storms have occupied the city’s stage center, flooding low-lying areas with biblical zeal. Apartment complexes with fissured rooftops have been doused to their stone or marble cores. Done with the afternoon, fragments of the storms, rogues or deities, have returned to put on lightning and hail shows deep into what are no longer sacred nights.
Climate change hawkers are out in force, pointing fingers in every available direction.
They speak a language rife with cryptic presaging, riddles too.
Icebergs to the far-away north have melted into the Mediterranean, they say.
Big gulls, common in this city by the sea, fly lower than they ever have, fearing the weight of sudden cloudbursts. Motorists tell tales of hearing the sudden sounds of terrifying thumps: gulls driven downward by wind to the knuckled tops of drenched cars.
What does it mean?
Perhaps it’s a new kind of reward to herald my coming birthday, but this one lives in a state of blindness, another mortality-in-the-air affliction.
But I can’t be so vain. I won’t play modern Nero, inviting the flood to take the place of fire. My magic powers were long ago curtailed.
Still, I have never felt – for I cannot see it – a Rome month in the water-sign vein of this one. And I have been a bystander for more than fifty years.
So bad has been the northern rains that many regions are flooded and have been for weeks. Such water is, in moderation, a boon for certain crops, for grapes, say. But moderation has taken its own rain check. These downpours sound and act like internet hysteria, nature imitating the sweep of the human snarl. It is, like today’s rhetoric, exaggerated, and who’s to say nature doesn’t at times take a cue from human behavior, giving back in thick water what man dishes out in sentences and speeches themselves seemingly made in the spirit of unbridled thunderstorm.
Silvio Berlusconi died the other day, so maybe this washing, omniscient, has come now to honor or cleanse his controversial legacy. He surely would have been annoyed to share attention with heavy weather in his halcyon days. He always wanted all for himself, money, power, girls, adulation. A business emperor of sorts, he was congenitally at ease with both the crooked and the straight, finding if not opening whole canals to allow him to navigate between both moral and amoral shores with aplomb.
His loudmouthed exploits ironically paved the way for the success of Italy’s sitting prime minister, a woman who was once his ally.
But storms to make funeral thunder? No. Silvio would have preferred a drier day and a folksong from his crooning days.
I am left, ultimately, with no explanation for this roaring, rainy month, except perhaps to say that weather can at times vex even enlightened sorts. Witness the recent virus, whose spread left many dumbfounded. Were we not, we of this smart century, beyond such humblings? Were we not children of the forecasting generation in which all could be foretold? Were we not to be excused from such caprices, and excused as well from sadness and depression, storms of emotion the enlightened condition should by now have neutered? Weren’t we now, finally, entitled to be happy, or at the very least content, and if not content, pray God secure.
But it rains on and we are none of these things. We fret and therefore are.
Soon, of course, these storms will recede and summer fun, for those who revel in it, will return, heat’s celebrity revived, showers dried by a ferocious yellow ball, the sun that is, in the end, our truest of daily securities.
The same sun that is in middle age and will, deep into the future, amplify its glow to then explode, doing what all stars do, condemned to its inner nature as we in Rome are now condemned, protests ignored, to the incessance of fierce rain.