FMM 10 23 2020 Hard Rain
“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” ~ John Updike.
For the past two days it rained solidly as I drove in to work (yes, we are partially working on campus, following guidelines, masks in place). It was the kind of rain that reminded me of England, where the sky is solid gray, no hint of sun, and it looks like it will never stop. I sometimes joke to my workmates, on days such as these, that it reminds me of an English summer! Poor England, it has been the butt of many jokes for years. But perhaps global warning is putting an end to those dreary days. Bizarre weather patterns are now the topic of conversations.
Usually in Florida we are spoilt. Showers of torrential downpours can clear up in a few minutes, to be replaced by bright sunshine and blue skies. You can be driving through a downpour only to come out of the rain and on a completely dry patch of road. So even if you don’t have an umbrella and are stuck inside your house, just wait a few minutes and you’ll be able to make it to your car.
The tropics are another matter altogether. They give you a lesson in the water cycle each day of the rainy season. A clear blue sky will start off the day, with the sun heating up the earth below. The hot air will rise up on high, and moisture begin to condense and form wispy clouds, that merge and build and eventually become towering cumulonimbus clouds, growing more dark and threatening as the day wears on. Soon the clouds can no longer support the weight of the moisture and large, piercingly cold drops fall from high up in the cooler zones. This rain can turn trickles into streams and rivers, it can gouge out gullies, can flood roads. turning potholes into treacherous car eaters, and if you dare to run out into it, it will soak through all of your layers of clothing down to your skin.
When I went home to visit my family in the UK many years ago, it was my first visit home in 16 years. We won’t go into the why of that, but one factor was the addition of four kids to my family and my initial plan to take everyone when I went. Before Kayak and Cheap tickets and the internet, air fares were non-negotiable and quite cost prohibitive, so that day never came. But my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary was cause enough to travel, and my other America-based sister and I made our plans and I was once more on British soil, gazing at the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia, and wondering how I had stayed away so long. As we stood outside the venue, a soft drizzle began to fall, more like a spritz or a sea mist, and it felt like I was being gently kissed by the Welsh rain, water that originated in these ancient mountains.
I have been richly blessed in my life, able to have so many different experiences of rain. Rain, like everything else in life, can be seen as blessing or curse, depending upon what your plans are. In the UK, it is just business as usual. You travel always with your ‘waterproofs’ and a brolly. In Jamaica, it can be another excuse to ‘soon come’, only mad people attempt to go out when the rain comes down in sheets, turning unpaved paths into mudbaths. In manicured Florida it means that sprinklers can be kept turned off, the lawns will be greening up for free. And in California it means relief from deadly fires.
Over the last few weeks I have found it life-saving to turn back to nature for relief from the madness of men, from the unrelenting cruelty and callousness of those in positions of power. Whether it is the endless miles of the Everglades, with the wading birds and unseen gators or the water that surrounds and bathes South Florida, Mother Nature has reminded me that this too shall pass. The Everglades undergoes cycles of renewal when fires burn through the old growth and allow for the appearance of new shoots, revealing food for the creatures that still live there. There is a rhythm to the cycles of life, cycles of waiting, cycles of reward, cycles of hard times balanced by periods of plenty. If we learn patience we can have faith that daylight comes, rain will stop, that life breaks through.
It has not been easy practicing patience and hoping that we are better than this. It has been outright painful and rage-inducing to hear and see how the ‘greatest nation on earth’ can mismanage a crisis, allowing almost a quarter of a million of its people to die. It has been heartbreaking to see the suffering of families, and to know how hard this has been on the healthcare system, on workers who are already expected to go over and above every day, in the interest of those who make profit out of sick people. But the scariest thing of all for most people of color, is to know that all that is being witnessed is not because of one person, it is because of the millions who see nothing wrong, who will be voting for four more years, who have enabled this freak show.
This Friday morning, I stand in solidarity with all who are suffering and pray that the goodness of the majority will win the day, although I keep having flashbacks. I try to stare at the beauty of nature and trust that the balance will be restored. I try to have faith that there are still enough people of conscience that will steady the boat, who care enough about the society as a whole to bring us back on the right course. And if you have a moment, ready the lyrics to the song Bob Dylan wrote almost 60 years ago: ‘A hard rain’s gonna fall’ and see how the words resonate today:
“I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warning
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazing
I heard ten-thousand whispering and nobody listening
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughing
I heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
I heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley”
May you have a wonderful weekend, Family. And let us hope that when the rain comes, it refreshes and blesses us all.