I spent seven years living in a small cottage at the back of a friend’s farmhouse. It had a corrugated iron roof and a lining of builders paper between that and the vaulted wooden ceiling. It might sound grand but I could walk from one side to the next in ten steps. While I have always loved the sound of rain, winters in that cottage were particularly brutal. Fog would rise up through the uninsulated floorboards in the mornings and some of the windows didn’t ever close. In that little haven at the end of the world, I breathed sound.
I would wake up to the song of tui birds in the olive and orange trees outside my windows, then slowly listen to the far-off hum of distant traffic building. Except on Saturdays. On Saturdays, I listened to the silence of grass blowing in the breeze and dew evaporating in early morning sun. I listened to the swoosh of cotton sheets cocooning me for one last luxurious swipe of the snooze button.
Sometimes if I was lucky enough, I would wake to the thunderous rhythm of rain pinging off the glass windowpanes, falling on the roof and sliding to the ground in fat, wet drops. I listened to the rain hitting the leaves of the trees and dripping into puddles.
When you live in a small house at the end of the road, at the edge of the city, at the bottom of the world – that kind of rain makes a little bubble that you don’t want to leave. I would wake up and make coffee, light the fire and then throw another blanket around my toes. In summer, it feels like relief when the rain brings the heat down from the sky and gives you a cool shower but in winter it’s just the opposite. Rain makes you feel cosy.
There is only one thing better than rain in the morning, with its easy to match, slow rhythm. It’s rain at the end of the day when you just make it from the car in the driveway to the doorway of your house. You push open the door and realise you can hear the crackle of the fireplace and the sound of Jakob Dylan on the stereo. In the same moment you smell the early embers of the fire, you also see an open bottle of red wine. Then there’s the unmistakeable sound another person makes when you share thirty square metres. Then the rain comes and they hand you a glass of wine they poured after hitting play on the stereo and lighting the fire; in the house they don’t live in but feel at home.
That is still my favourite sound in the world; the sound of home when the rain starts to fall outside and you have permission to stay and enjoy it for a while. I haven’t heard that song in a long time. I may not hear again for a long time. I don’t have a fireplace and I’m hard to pin down. But I haven’t lost my hearing. I haven’t stopped listening for it.