The past few weeks in California have been a pluviophile’s heaven. The atmospheric rivers bringing moisture to a state hardened by drought is very welcome.
I spent hours listening to the music of the rain, enjoying the gurgle of the water-butts, and the suction-like sound of the rain waters receding into the drains. We made paper boats and watched them gently sway along with the waters, we released driftwood stuck near drains, we empathized with fauna and realized what fragile creatures we are. These are the images of a happy childhood, and they warmed my soul as I shared these pleasures with the son.
Out on a walk in the pouring rain one day, I felt at peace with the Earth around me. There were scarcely any humans about, and this in itself was refreshing. Without the banter of words, the language of Earth was so soothing.
The river near our home has a name that invites teasing given the amount of water that usually flows in there. It is called the Niles river.
When one nears its banks, there is a sign warning folks against swimming, diving and fishing in the river. Only for almost the entire time we have been acquainted with the river, it has hardly boasted a flow enough to sustain more than a few paddling ducks and geese. Mostly the deer graze inside the riverbed, and its bed is home to many creatures: foxes, raccoons, deer, cats, water rats, squirrels and of course a whole multitude of birds: geese, avocets, gulls, grebes, ducks, herons, egrets. The trees nearby are home to California bluejays, thrushes, blackbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, owls and turkey vultures.
I love our gentle stream that calls itself a river. But the past few weeks thanks to an uncharacteristic atmospheric river that bears moisture into the dry state of California, it had swollen into a respectable river and I found myself standing and gazing longingly at the waters moving towards the bay. The ducks seem to be enjoying themselves getting in with the drifts and floating along swiftly and then flying back several feet just to be able to do it all over again.
The deer seemed to be having a tougher time of it all. They are the ones who enjoyed the river-bed the most, and the swollen waters meant that their natural feeding grounds were no longer available for them. That afternoon in the pouring rain, the deer were on the trail since the riverbed they usually take refuge in was filled with water, and my heart went out to them. Luckily for them, the trail that is usually filed with humans was near empty. Like the children say, not everyone is kook-enough to walk in this storm. Slowly, but purposefully, I gave them the space on the trail so they may go towards a patch of greens nearby. The pouring rains did not seem to bother the creatures as much as it bothered us humans.
All this musing brought back into sharp focus what nitpicking creatures we are. We are scared to step out without umbrellas, raincoats, shoes and socks. We need our body temperatures just within this particular narrow range (97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C) ). We need our food prepared just so, and our lives orchestrated just so, and in spite of it all, have managed to create lives that are just so-so. (It has been so long since I used this term)
The trees around us with their bare branches (abscission as shedding leaves is known) still remind us that the wintering season is not over. This is still the time to rejuvenate ourselves and trim down our commitments so we may sprout forth in glory during spring. But human beings seem to march to a different rhythm – a rhythm driven by financial earnings reports, calendars, the vague baying drum of stock market indices that demand more, a sadistic and almost schadenfeudic clamoring for layoffs, incessant profits etc.
A month into the new year, the world has marched on from one grim news to another.
My mind harked back to the statue in Athens. The busy man statue in Athens, created by artist Costas Varotsos , it is a fitting statue for our times.
Our lives have become more like the running man depicted in Athens. Despite all the world philosophers practically giving the secret to happy living away for free (Buddha, Plato, Socrates) , we manage to avoid the difficult work of being at peace with ourselves and choose the easy world of busy work(including yours truly).
A rain droplet trickled on to my nose. I came back to the fullness of a bare winter surrounding me and I took in a deep gasp of air to savor these moments.