Seeking Calm

Words have always calmed me. It is why I sit here writing. As I write with rain tapping on my sunroof, these words of Langston Hughes come to me–

“Let the rain kiss you.

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.

Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”

I opened the patio door so I could hear the rain hit the pavement. Not only does writing calm me, so does the staccato sound of the raindrops torpedoing the patio tiles and splashing. I recall being a child and discovering that my bright red galoshes were perfect for splashing in the rain puddles and walking along ditches where I could dig for crawdads who fled the drains during a downpour. One of my favorite photos is a two-year-old me dancing in the rain. Although it is black and white, I vividly remember the red galoshes and red and white polka dot umbrella. In the photo the umbrella is tossed aside on the ground, and I am reaching up to the sky with joy as I dance in the rain.

Oh, there were years when I grew weary of rain. Especially when I lived in a coal-mining village in England as a child. I would shiver as the rain blew in my 3A classroom window and landed on my carefully inked essays, smudging them. Later when I first taught high school in Indiana, I had to drive thirty miles in frequent thunderstorms and snowstorms to my first teaching job. One night as I drove home in the dark of winter, and my Chevy II slid across the ice into a snowbank, I decided I would leave rain and snow country. Forever.

Ironically when I moved to the desert, I quickly came to see rain as the possibility of hope, new beginnings, and of course, rainbows. Like the tears a young child cries to wash away the pain of a scraped knee, the rain washes away the scorched pain of the desert. Slowly I have learned this. Slowly I have come to love the sounds, the smells, and the art the rain paints on the surface of the arid earth.

Last week as I drove to Sedona for a small event, I marveled at the fields filled with six-foot-tall wild sunflowers and yellow poppies growing in the highway medians and across the hills and valleys.  It was still August, but it was cool, and I rolled my windows down to breathe in the earthy smell of the creosote plants. Just this fragrance fills me with complete calm.

Late that night I sat outside on the patio of a dear friend talking about her move from Phoenix to the red rock canyons. Errant raindrops were falling around us. “It was an easy change,” Linda explained. “I didn’t realize that being around nature would give me more energy, but it does. It literally calms me down.” I understood.

When I said I was still learning how to listen to nature, especially the rain, Linda laughed and said, “This gentle rain reminds me of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.” Within minutes the wind began to bang the wooden gate to the yard and whistled violently through the junipers. “Perhaps now we are enjoying Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony?” I chided.

Then for a long time we sat in wonder, watching and listening as the storm performed its magical dance around us. As the thunder clapped like cymbals, the lightning set the night canyon aglow, illuminating the reds and oranges of Cathedral Rock in split second flashes. It was as stunning as any painting I have ever seen by Chagall or Matisse.

To write. To dance in the rain like a child. To breathe in the fresh air deeply. To spend time with a friend. To be one with a nature and rain–and to be fully present in these moments. To really see them, calms me. In these times, I will try to embrace more of these moments—and I will wish the same for you.