The Benevolence of Water Washing Dust

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Even at noon the house is dark.
In my room under the eaves
I hear the steady benevolence
of water washing dust
raised by the haying
from porch and car and garden
and purified, as if tonsured.

The grass resolves to grow again,
receiving the rain to that end,
but my disordered soul thirsts
after something it cannot name.
~Jane Kenyon from “August Rain, After Haying”

 

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A long-awaited string of rainy days have arrived and like the ground and plants, I look skyward letting the clouds drip on me and I am washed of dust.

Will I restore like the brown and dying blade of grass, turning green and lush in a matter of days?

Is there enough benevolence from the sky to cleanse and settle the grime, and still yield more harvest of food and fodder?  Will this replenish my soul enough that I can resolve to grow again?

I thirst for what I cannot name.  The mystery is, I’m filled, left dripping and ready.

 

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Nothing Left to Do

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Toward the end of August I begin to dream about fall, how
this place will empty of people, the air will get cold and
leaves begin to turn. Everything will quiet down, everything
will become a skeleton of its summer self. Toward

the end of August I get nostalgic for what’s to come, for
that quiet time, time alone, peace and stillness, calm, all
those things the summer doesn’t have. The woodshed is
already full, the kindling’s in, the last of the garden soon

will be harvested, and then there will be nothing left to do
but watch fall play itself out, the earth freeze, winter come.
~David Budbill “Toward the End of August” from Tumbling Toward the End.

 

 

 

weed9715

 

I dream now of fall, wanting this stubborn summer to flame out, to leave its bare bones behind.  The last few weeks have been particularly cruel with wildfires, hurricanes, drought, sweltering heat, and flooding rains.  As if nature is not damaging enough, humanity continues to threaten humanity with local and global violence and threats of annihilation, while hundreds of thousands of refugees migrate from one poor country into even poorer countries in search of some semblance of hope and security for a safe future.

Anxiety and despair seem appropriate responses in the face of so much tragedy – they take root like weeds in a garden patch– overwhelming, crowding out and impairing all that is fruitful.  The result is nothing of value grows–only unchecked proliferation of more weeds. My worry and anguish help no one and changes nothing, serving only to hinder me from being fruitful.

It shouldn’t take bad news and disaster to remind me of what I already know:
I am not God and never will be.  He tends the garden and He pulls the weeds when the time is right.

His harvest is at hand.  Either I’m fruit or weed.

Acknowledging this is everything.  There is nothing left to do but watch as it plays itself out.

 

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twinlayers

 

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The Root Goes Deep

lilywwu
sunrise818175
Spun silk of mercy,
long-limbed afternoon,
sun urging purple blossoms from baked stems.   
What better blessing than to move without hurry   
under trees?
Lugging a bucket to the rose that became a twining   
house by now, roof and walls of vine—

you could live inside this rose.

 

I want to know the root goes deep   
on all that came before,
you could lay a soaker hose across   
your whole life and know
there was something
under layers of packed summer earth   
and dry blown grass
to moisten.
~Naomi Shihab Nye from “Last August Hours Before the Year 2000”
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tomatoes
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Parched as I might feel,
drying and fragile,
crumbling at the edges
there is still the hope of my roots down deep
waiting patiently
for some moisture to bring me backso I can once again
be blossom
and fragrance
and fruit
and blessing
restored.
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lilywwu

Puddle-wonderful

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The world is mud-lucious and puddle-wonderful.
~e.e. cummings

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…he sought the privacy of rain,
the one time no one was likely to be
out and he was left to the intimacy
of drops touching every leaf and tree in
the woods and the easy muttering of
drip and runoff…
~Robert Morgan from “Working in the Rain”

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There is plenty of muttering, both private and public, since the rain started yesterday.  And not all of it is from dripping and runoff into puddles.  Anytime a holiday weekend is predicted to be rained out, plenty of people mutter too.

I’m celebrating as it has been weeks — no, months — since we have had a decent rain and everything, including me, has been far too tinder-dry.

Rain is what makes this part of the world special, but like Camelot,  most would prefer it never fall till after sundown.   To them we live not in a more congenial spot — than Camelot.

I may be an oddity, though somewhat typical of northwest-born natives.  I celebrate rain whenever it comes, whether before sundown or after sunrise, as I grew up working outside in the intimacy of a drenching shower.  Yet rain, this falling weather, gives me an excuse to stay indoors to putter around instead of mutter.

He could not resist the long
ritual, the companionship and freedom
of falling weather, or even the cold
drenching, the heavy soak and chill of clothes
and sobbing of fingers and sacrifice
of shoes that earned a baking by the fire
and washed fatigue after the wandering
and loneliness in the country of rain.
~Robert Morgan, conclusion of “Working in the Rain”

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On the Spot, Watching

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breezetrees

A tree can’t thrash its branches;
it waits for the wind to move them.
I can manufacture neither poems nor spiritual power,
but my task is to be on the spot, watching,
ready when the breeze picks up.

~Luci Shaw from Breath for the Bones

 

I awake as a gust unlatches our front door ajar,
blinds clattering over screened windows
yawning open for months;
raindrops blowing everywhere,
sucked up with a thirst
unknown by this soil before.

I thirst too~
sweat-dried from a too-long summer,
eager to be tasked with watching
this amazing change
to be moved as it passes by,
bowed and bent by its power.

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A Wordless Immanence

tablerain

in celebration of a night’s rain and possibly more to come after months of drought, dust and wildfires to the east ~~~
… relief for the change in weather, but sadness at the coming transition to the dying darkness of autumn.

herbgardenrain

At the end of August, fall nip in the air,
I sensed something beyond me,
Everywhere I felt it in my flesh
As I beheld the sea and sky, the day,
The wordless immanence of the eternal…
~Richard Eberhart from “The Loon Call”

irishoodrain

August rain:
the best of the summer gone,
and the new fall not yet born.
The odd uneven time.
~Sylvia Plath

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clotheslinerain

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I want to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.   
I want to be entered and picked clean.
~Charles Wright from “Clear Night”
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Desolaration and Precipilicity

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kites

People who grow up in the Pacific Northwest suffer from peculiar climate-related disorders unique to only to us.   This deserves a page in the next version of the DSM — the diagnostic psychiatric manual:  we in the PNW don’t feel 100% normal unless it is raining.  Summer, especially this summer, can be a very difficult time for us.

In fact, we born and bred web-footers can feel downright depressed when it is sunny all the time.  This summer — actually since May — we’ve had only an inch or so of rain, yielding weeks of nothing but blue skies, dusty paths, dried up creeks, wilting greenery, brown pasture and wildfires.  We groan inwardly when yet another day dawns bright instead of gray, we start to look longingly at accumulating clouds,  and we get positively giddy when morning starts with a drizzly mist.

It’s difficult to say what exactly is at work in brain chemistry in cases like this.  It is the opposite effect of classically described Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosed especially in those transplants from more southerly climates who get sadder and slowed down with darker days and longer nights.   In people like me, born a stone’s throw from Puget Sound, the more sunlight there is, the more doldrums I feel:  desolaration (desolation from too much solar exposure).   The grayer the day, the wetter the sky–> a lightening of the heart and the spirit:  precipilicity (felicity arising from precipitation).

Like most northwesterners, I have low Vitamin D levels even in the summer.  It just isn’t seemly to expose all that skin to UV light.

So I’m longing for the profound relief of a rainy summer day, thank you.   There would be no internal conflict about feeling compelled to go outside to work up a sweat and soak up the elusive sun rays.   There would only be the cozy invitation to stay inside to read and write and sleep.

I know I’m not alone in this disorder.  Many of us are closet sufferers but would never admit it in polite company.  To complain about sunny days is perceived as meteorologically incorrect.  It is time to acknowledge that many of us are in this together.

Robert Frost (definitely not a northwesterner) confessed his own case of desolaration in the first stanza of his poem November Guest:

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

And Jack Handey, the satirist, summarizes the real reason for the guilty pleasure of the northwest native in liking rain:

“If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying.’
And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.”

Okay, okay, perhaps this is the explanation for our extended drought.  It appears this summer we’ve all been far too well-behaved.

It’s time to do something about it…

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