For Friday, February 26, 2016:
“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.”
“Some people feel the rain. Others get wet.”
Can you smell the rain coming two or three hours ahead of time? It’s a sweet smell, especially in the summer, fragrant and refreshing. Have you seen rain coming from a distance? Where it slices through the sunlight along a valley between mountains? And then the mist of its edges starts to envelop you, a mist so fine you can’t feel it yet but you can see tiny water droplets on your skin?
Do you stand there and wait for more, or do you get into the car or under a roof before the rain grows in intensity?
If you’re like I am, you likely retreat to a drier place, or at least put on a jacket or pull out an umbrella. Once in a while, though, it’s worth it to stay and wait for the rain.
Rumi’s advice to not claim the wonders we observe takes me back to not a rainy day, but a day full of other wonders. It was a spectacularly perfect summer day in Vermont, as only Vermont can pull off: warm and plentiful sunshine, eagles and hawks soaring in the updrafts, wildflowers in a field of grass, the waters of the southern end of Lake Champlain sparkling in the background.
I had a camera with me, but I chose not to use it that day many years ago. Instead I stored up the wonders. I inhaled the fragrances of sun-warmed grass, the wildflowers, the sounds of the bees and dragonflies as they swirled around us, the cries of the raptors, the soft sighs of the waters easing into the rocky shore. When I wrote a poem about it a few days later, I said that it was a day for memories, not for photographs.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with photographs! I’m a photographer, and several friends are phenomenal photographers. My best friend’s work is like haiku from a camera – the way she finds the hints of wonder in a subject, usually one or more flowers, and blends the hues and colors is nothing short of amazing. She sees and finds the artistry in what to most of us is a simple petunia or tulip or violet. She entices the viewer to want to reach out and touch the satiny petals even as we know there’s more to wonder at than what we see in the frame.
I’ve taken plenty of photos of places and events I want to remember, but there are some rolls of film – yes, before digital cameras were affordable and before cameras in phones – that are still undeveloped, and others just sit inside my computer.
But the memories are fully developed. I still see the people, the places, and I can go back to them anytime I want to. I remember the warmth of that sunny Vermont day, the smell of the approaching rain through a Southern mountain valley, the wide expanse of a Welsh riverland, the intoxicating fragrance of red ginger in Maui, watching a chameleon turn different colors as it climbed through lush foliage (now that’s a wonder if ever I saw one!), the pathways a little garden snake makes in the leaf litter, a perfectly-formed spider web glistening with dewdrops in the early rays of the rising sun, the bright and curious eyes of a chipmunk ….
There is so much artistry and wonder and beauty in this world, sometimes right in front of us and at our feet, if we but look for it and pay attention. Even in the rain.