Something that bears to be mentioned is that I am a little obsessed with scenery and weather. Especially rain. I find rainfall of all different sorts both soothing and inspiring, so it is frequently my muse. Today, rain falls on Shanghai. A dense, winter rain, that in another age could have been snowfall… but perhaps that is just the wishful thinking of a 土生土长的 Michigander.
Under the fall of rain, Shanghai lacks something. The sound of the traffic destroys the natural sound of the raindrops on the ground, and what results is a wet smearing noise, drowning the rain in the din of human movement. But boy does it sparkle.
Shanghai in rain is colourful, especially at night. Light shines through the droplets and is amplified, like shooting stars and arrows piercing the night. The droplets are thick; lightning flashes and thunder rolls. I sit on my bed and listen, and the rain thickens, competing with the horns and squealing brakes. I watch from my window as people come and go, from my perch I imagine their feet pattering with the rain drops. City dwellers have not the time nor inclination to pause and appreciate how their city glistens.
Yet with the sparkling light comes a heaviness. Rain should be cleansing, a baptism that leaves the world dewy and green. But Shanghai is a meadow of concrete, metal, and glass, smeared with the grime of living. Layer upon layer, generation upon generation like the soil beneath the farmer’s fingernails, or the soot lurking behind a miner’s ear. Can a place like this be purified? To remove Shanghai’s dirt would be to remove a part of its soul, and the rain knows better than to touch that.
So the rain slides down the sides of the buildings and glides along the pavement, its chilly palm caressing the city’s slick exteriors. An urban rainfall glistens, yet there is a tiredness to it, feeling like a forced smile. Shanghai in rainfall lacks something, but its heart keeps pulsing regardless. Behind a mask of rain it smiles knowingly, alive and undefeated.
There is something magical about living in a city. Natural countryside is doubtlessly beautiful, but cities are testaments to human perseverance. Imperfection can be beautiful too, which is something that attracts me to the urban lifestyle. Stepping out into the slick city rain, I watch my Shanghai sparkle, and try to learn from its example. We’ve all got dirt underneath our fingernails, soot on our cheeks–but even in the pouring rain we can shine.