“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths.” ~ Muhammad Ali.
There is something about rain. I was born in the north west of England, a city famous for its grey skies and persistent rain. I have not lived there for many decades, and don’t know what climate change has done to its reputation, but in my childhood the rain was ubiquitous. No one left home without some form of protection, even if it was just a ‘plastic mac’ – a lightweight raincoat which could be rolled up and tucked away in your bag.
When we moved to Jamaica, I discovered that rain could have a different quality altogether. The rain in Manchester could be a drizzle: soft, almost a mist at times. But in Jamaica the raindrops were forceful, serious, powered down from on high, starting out as towering cumulus black clouds that were far cooler than the ambient temperature below. So, if you got caught in a shower you were drenched to the skin within minutes, icy cold drops raising goosebumps at times. As children it was fun! For the adults the rains would follow the dry season and give life to their crops. When we went to Jamaica we were told that there are two seasons: rainy season and dry season (but they forgot about the most important season: mango time!).
The tropical downpours could turn a dry, cracked earth path into a sloppy mud pit in no time. If they parked on grass, drivers needed skills to get out of the muddy mess, tires spinning uselessly as the car got stuck deeper and deeper. But the nice thing about growing up in such an environment is that the world stops when it rains. People don’t try to go out in it. At school we would have unofficial breaks as teachers got stuck in the staff room.. If the rain caught us during PE, we would pack into the small changing room on the games field to wait for the rain to stop. When you finally got home you would have to dig the mud from the soles of your shoes before you put them to dry. And oh, the sound of rain on a zinc roof. Such music, such a lullaby. Why would anyone want to go anywhere when you can wrap up on your bed with a good book? Those rains coming from so high cooled the temperature down, and even in the tropics you could appreciate a blanket to keep you warm.
The things we take for granted. The rains of course are necessary for life, for crops to grow, for rivers to flow into the sea. But in our rush for civilization, for development, for high rises and office buildings and roads we have been digging our own grave, as we disrupt nature’s cycles and exhaust our water supply.
I heard this week of another country going on lockdown due to an outbreak of COVID-19, and suddenly remembered that feeling of that enforced pause, when we were made to stop, to slow down, to stay home. It has been over a year, but there was almost a sense of relief as we stepped off the rat race for a while. In the calm after the storm of our everyday life, Mother Nature was giving us the opportunity to rethink our priorities, to sort out our messes. Unfortunately, just as a resilient plant comes back to life once the rain returns, we soon slipped back into our mad, consumer driven ways. What lessons have we learned?
I heard the word commodification this week, and I began to ponder on it. They say you should never laugh at a person who mispronounces words, it proves they are reading. When I look at the word commodification, I first think of ‘commode’, mostly due to my nursing background. But of course, in our capitalist world, it actually means turning something into a commodity, a wealth producer, an object of economic value. We can see how society has developed over time, from bartering goods for food; trading or exchanging items of (hopefully) equivalent value. And in our abhorrent way, even humans became objects to be traded.
I was half-listening to the radio and heard the term. It was in regard to foster children. Apparently, there is a company who has found a way to make money by helping to identify children who qualify for social security funding and help the state with the complicated application process to get it. Since the children are minors, the money goes to the state (over $42 million in one case) to help care for them. The state pays the company $1600 per child. The commodification of children.
It can make you become very cynical, once you hear stories like these. When I came to this country to work as a nurse I was shocked at the concept of a for-profit health care industry. How can you make money off of sick people? That’s sick! Unfortunately we are still suffering under a system that makes more money off people being unhealthy than healthy. The commodification of ill-health.
Which brings me right back to Mother Nature. For we also have a planet that is suffering from commodification. Thankfully there are activists working hard to reverse the damage, but we have to do our part too. And if it is your own health you are worried about, find your way to a piece of nature and observe. Take in life-affirming breaths and send gratitude to the trees that are part of the water cycle, sucking up water from the earth and sending out the oxygen for us to breathe. Go stare at a moving body of water; listen to the birds as they are singing; give thanks for a forgiving planet that is trying its best to sustain us.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family. And if you have a chance, be a child again, go stand in the pouring rain and feel it splash on your face.