“On the corner
where the sun had shone,
The people gathered ‘round,
Then scattered as the raindrops
hit the ground.
The rain is falling.
Will it wash away the lonely tears.”
~ Jeff Lynne, Rain is Falling
Rain has been inordinately part of every day, for nearly a month. So much so, that the ordinary spaces and conditions through which destinations are connected become distinctive environments in themselves. Indeed, it is possible to appreciate relentless torrents when they are not factors in destructive equations, as we see in parts of the world. Observing rainstorms from high ground along the Maine coast reminds me of watching snow billow on Vermont mountaintops; quantitative measure becomes inconsequential. Even with few I can find who share my enjoyment of the pouring, the dampness, and even the refreshing quaffs of bracing air, my contention remains that this intervention of nature itself lends well to introspection. To varying extents, we are compelled to draw inward - even in the subtlest and slightest ways- when we seek temporal sanctuaries on this adventure we must navigate. And surely, ducking into and through intermittent shelters need not weigh down a soul. The light is a diffused and shadowless grey. An extended overcast atmosphere has effected a kind of housepaint white backdrop to all roads and buildings, seamlessly matching the sky overhead. Is this gloom? What’s not to enjoy? Great strides can be made, when there are few shadows and the immediate panorama is one of sweeping movement. Of twirl and tumble- and then startling sound and light effects. On the coast, paroxysms of nature- no matter the season- are interleaved with cool, briny breezes- all at once gritty, earthy, and rejuvenating. Invariably, there are signs to be noticed: reminders and pointers attesting to what is past that remains to inform, and horizons revealed.
To abide in the midst of nature’s voice is to dwell among transitory places of inspiration. When the air around us sounds and gusts and even adds a coating to us, it is an experience of both sense and spirit. These rains are reminiscent of what is above, beneath, and around me. Indirect light creates a context of muted reflectant colors, and with such palettes are many accompanying recollections. If you are among those who appreciate the rain, the grey light, and that washed-sky aroma, try drawing in a breath of that cathartic air which comes to us between storms. And reminders follow. As a child in the city, I hated rainy weather; it was- as many things in huge cities- an annoying obstruction. Darkness and cancellations. Humid busses and subways, squeaking slicker coats that stick to skin, and damp summer camp bunks. Though I may be projecting the helplessness of my adolescence, the impressions are surely accurate. But somehow, so many connotations began changing as I left home at seventeen, arrived in this place, and embarked upon the life of faith. And reaching forth for the new has an underpinning in a foundation of remembered experience. Scent can produce powerful memories and internal references. Rainswept air is our breathing after a purging lamentation. Memory is a realm at our very margin, that we may only visit as we recollect and contemplate. The brick and earthen streets of Portland return me to the cobbled and saturated streets of Paris. A good rainstorm can even be heard from the interiors we inhabit, be it swishing traffic, dappled windowpanes, or tympanic thunder. The landscape changes, and as we notice our own transformation, our sense of the scenery around us evolves, too.
Some of my colleagues and closest friends are aware of my penchant for what most consider to be “awful” weather- and a few understand it. Heading out to this café to write these words, a friend recommended, “take your umbrella, if you’re going out there,” pointing at the windows. It looked as if the whole building had been driven into a car wash. Adventures have their necessities: ponchos, boots, rain-gear, umbrellas, rain-proof containers. The great pilgrimage, we are told, requires but a pair of sandals and a walking-stick; unextravagant enough not to exclude anyone. Grateful for my associate’s presence of mind, I took the advice- and my umbrella. This modest perch of little tables, hot coffee, and bantering voices is shelter- certainly not the silence of Elijah’s cave, but similarly in the way one can sense the consolation and purpose of Divine presence. This exploration traverses unknown desolate places, separations, and also winds through unpredicted oases. The nature of a way-station is in its very provisional aspect, as a rainstorm blows out to sea. The way forward is antithetical to stagnation. In the unknowing, I must maintain a practical sense of remembrance, to be capable and equipped for the voyage. As the pilgrim soul is ever in motion, so are the skies in transition. Adapting to the forces of nature- to storms, terrain, and visibility- we reconcile with creation. Being reminded of vast heights and depths, we can be diverted from making our troubles larger than these sources of life themselves.
Noticing striding sidewalk adventurers outside, under their varieties of umbrellas, there is a fine symbol of pilgrimage. We must equip ourselves, as we move through this world- even under cover of portable shelters. Weather is indiscriminate, varying according to geography rather than by personality sharing proximity (however the better-healed are often better equipped). The sun rises upon all of us, however deserving we may think each other to be, and “the rains are sent upon those who do right and those who do wrong.” Heavy rains represent nourishment- and at times devastation. It is for us to find or create our sanctuaries from the storms, where we can fold up those umbrellas for the time being. If the skies present signs to us, among them is the certainty of transition. And as I weather these seasons, gazing back while looking for tomorrow’s light, through the rain there emerges a precursor of assurance.