by Brynne Howard
Through the windows I watch the rain fall. It comes down gently at first, dusting the trees and benches with its sparkle. Then it starts to pound, on the windows, on the benches, on the trees. It becomes a mob of angry men wanting inside. Thunder explodes, and my chair shakes from under me. I look up as a line of fire stretches across the sky. The church across the street is lit up in its brilliance. I turn my glance back into the room, thankful for the peace and safety it renders.
Inside, forty-four people sit on metal folding chairs. The old chairs creak with the movement of their occupants. The people sit in a semicircle, facing each other and the windows. Some are looking towards the threatening sky, others are reading, and others still are praying. The newborn, Valerie, snores softly in her grandfather’s arms. His while beard gently tickles her face, and his soft humming soothes her. In chairs nearly adjacent to the window, a middle-aged couple sits. The man holds the woman’s hand as she looks forward, seeing nothing. Her white can lays folded at their feet. She smiles sweetly as she recognizes the sound and smell of the spring rain. Nearby, a woman stands humbly. She is in her early eighties, and her silver hair is clasped tightly at the back of her head. Her dress is modest, the top button of her cardigan forever affixed. He lips tremble slightly as she speaks, and her words echo in the minds of the people when she is finished. As she sits, a slight noise from the back corner captures my attention. Four young boys relax together on the green carpet. They’re passing around a magazine and giggling. Their laughter does not destroy the silence as one would expect, but enriches it.
I lean back in one of the two reclining chairs. I close my eyes, soaking in the moment. As I sit there, a soft melody plays in my head. Tis’ a gift to be simple. Tis’ a gift to be free. Tis’ a gift to come down where we ought to be… I open my eyes again, studying the simplicity of this Quaker meeting house. Its undecorated walls boast only one humble picture. A black and white drawing of another meeting from a different time. Six tall bookshelves completely hide the back wall. They are wooden structures with class windows. Some of the books inside are visibly worn and tattered, others new and unused. In the center of the room sits a tall plant. Its leaves are bright green, and the light shimmers off their waxy surface.
I gaze outside again. The storm has passed and with it an hour in time. The sun radiates from behind a lingering cloud, and the outside world begins to appear, fresh from its cleansing. Birds fly from their nests, searching for food. Across the street a damp American flag waves in the cool breeze. Inside the room people begin to stir. They stand and greet each other, fresh from their cleansing. I say in my chair for a moment longer and reflect on how often I’ve sat at this exact spot, in this exact moment, cherishing the simple pleasure of a rainy day at Meeting.