The First Really Good Rain

I have a favorite passage about rain, shared with me a few years ago by a dear friend. It gives me hope for a world in which we listen and love words, and continue to connect to them on a deep level. When we have that connection, we have everything.

“Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By ‘they’ I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.

I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the place where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, a night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.”

by Thomas Merton, “Rain and the Rhinoceros,” Raids on the Unspeakable, 1960

The last time I shared this passage was to an incredible group of middle school and college students spending a week together in the Oregon wilderness. That day we gathered in an old abandoned cabin not far from our campsite, and listened as a thundering rain, much like that in the passage, beat down on the roof, drowning out everything but each other. It was a very special moment, bringing a random mix of people together to connect, reflect, and find meaning in nature and words and stories. Now when I read this I think of the moments where we as humans can find the magic in each other and the natural world.

It felt like Oregon today, as the first real rain of the season could be heard pattering away outside; I felt a sense of calm. It wasn’t the deafening rain I have come to expect from the forest, but consistent enough from my Portland neighborhood to feel a small change in the wheel. Despite hard weeks and a summer that passed by too quickly to truly enjoy, this rain is a reminder that the world keeps turning. Seasons still change and nothing is stagnant forever. Through this, we can look past our struggles and see that just as seasons are never stagnant, neither are the hard things in life, and we will get past it.

I needed this rain. I needed the sound and the smell of it. I needed to feel that squishy puddle under my soles from shoes that aren’t meant for Oregon weather. I needed to be reminded that hard times are changing, and I will get past them.


One comment

  1. m.woolsey · · Reply

    Beautiful, just like you!


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