It has been raining yet again. So much for getting anything done outside today. Walking the dog will be enough. The camera is getting used to it by now. Though not designed as waterproof, it has been out in all weathers, tucked under coats and shawls. It is seldom that I move without it. A road trip, where I know that all I will get to do is drive, still sees it tucked up on the back seat of the car, looking at me as hopefully as Ani when it is time for her walk. You just never know what you will find, or where you may be able to pull over.
One recent, rainy day saw me drenched and with squelching feet, wandering around a west London park. My son was there on business, and I was there on taxi duty. While he was dealing with the sharp end, I wandered off for a while and was glad I did, in spite of the fact that the little lace slippers were rather less than appropriate. That too, seems to be something of a feature.
“Nice weather… for ducks!” grunted an elderly gentleman sheltering under a big old tree. The ducks may well have been appreciative. Other birds were less so, though the rain did not appear to have dampened the amorous ardour of at least one determined suitor. It is, after all, spring, and, in spite of the drenching they were getting, or perhaps because of it, the trees and flowers were making the most of the season.
I think it is the contrast between freshly washed petals and rain-darkened bark and earth that does it. While sunshine shows the playful gaiety of spring, rain seems to highlight the details on every leaf and petal, throwing textures into relief and marking a sharp contrast in the colours. The sparkling drops add an extra dimension that links earth and sky in a very intimate manner.
Thinking about it, I realised that our instinct is still to think of the sky as being ‘up’… like the blue strip a child paints across the top of a picture. Yet the sky and the earth embrace, their meeting as close as it can be as every contour of the earth and sea, every grain of sand, every leaf and blade is touched by the sky, without any possible separation. As are we.
Yet we imagine a separateness; simply accepting that the sky is above us. The poets tell us so with their starry heavens… yet those heavens are here on earth too, all around us. How could I have missed that, all these years? What logic knows lacks a soul until understanding illuminates it. We are not children of earth, but creatures of earth and sky.
I remembered my younger son, drinking the water dripping from a rock face half way up Ben Nevis one day. He had asked where the water came from, so high up… “So, I am drinking clouds, then?” he had said. The child’s logic too was poetry to me and I realised that by extension of the same thought, I was myself poised between heaven and earth, breathing in the sky. I wondered about that; an analogy could be made there… how many other things do we live and breathe and know without Knowing?
Thinking about that as the rain fell changed the feeling of the day from simply soggy to glorious. The all-pervading damp was no longer a chill imposition but the kiss of the sky upon my brow. The little plumes of steam that rose from both me and the sheltering creatures more than just a drying out… it was a reaching up, an answering embrace, like a child stretching their arms to a father.
A little clumsily, still learning to find our feet in the world, unsure of quite who or what we are, we walk through life in unconscious wonder. We may focus our gaze upon the earth and its rewards, or we may look up to a distant sky and reach for diamond stars. Yet perhaps we do not need to strive so hard to reach the apparently unattainable; perhaps the beauty we seek was right here with us all along.