The cat sort of fell onto his side and stretched out against the cool ceramic floor, finding relief as he allowed gravity to press him against the tiles checkered blue and white. I could see his little belly rising and falling through the shaggy fluff of his hair, the motor of his purr shifting into second gear as he recovered from a long day spent seeking shade.
Shirtless and glistening with sweat I went back outside, guzzled a cold beer, and inspected the handiwork of my neatly-stacked woodpile with a critical eye. One of the corners had fallen and I’d had to rebuild it. Satisfied, I took a cold shower, changed the bandage on my wounded finger, sat down at my desk and dreamed of patience, the smell of fresh-cut sage, and books whose pages have all been tenderly dog-eared.
Just then came the rain, out of nowhere in grand voluptuous droplets, meeting the roof with an effervescent thrumming, so hard and so fast that I could not finish my note-writing at the desk, but instead leapt to the open door, not able to bear the thought of missing such weather for anything but the deepest sleep. As if I were witnessing a ceremony the wind sprung up, a Babylonian offering a prayer to an oracle. The wind came over the hill on top of that rain, opening its arms and raising its voice, it sprung up and refreshed me, stirring the cat back to life.
I smelled the breath of the world in that wind, a breath of earthy fragrant smoke, a breath like a thousand hanging gardens whose perfume must have inspired the invention of incense long ago. A door somewhere inside the house creaked and slammed, and gatherings of leaves like colored scarves were disbanded from beneath the trees, shaken loose, and – like me – sent spinning. They fluttered, twittered, sputtered, and then were driven to the ground, one hundred defeated ballerinas, one hundred overpowered belly-dancers.
The hills, how they roll. Softly sloping emeralds bejeweling the crown of August with its high corn and sunflowers drooping their heavy heads, like me, in silent celebration, a noiseless halleluiah.
The world, how it glimmers. How it appears to be sitting still, beneath the fingertips of the sun, as if some new form of incredible light has just sprung into being and is shedding itself over the garden of the universe.
My mind, how it flickers. Static with the commotion of its ten-thousand children. Thoughts whirling, dust rising in the wake of a stallion’s hooves, the crackling energy of a storm at sea, bending me as if I were the bough of an evergreen. The flailing curtain of rain opens its mouth to speak: “What have you lost sight of? Reclaim your honor. Fall to your knees. Be true to your journey, your gateway, your Self.”
Summer’s fragrance, how it settles. How the cool sheet of its kindness comes to rest against my feverish thighs, as I try, all the while, for a little gratitude, a little grace.
Viewed from the sky, the circle in which you expedite your daily life is a speck on the surface of the planet. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less the center of the universe than anything else. We are all whiling away the What Has Been, the What Is, and the What Is To Be, hurtling forward through our small lives with all their small details.
Maybe that’s why I was so relieved when, the other day, you coaxed me out of the car to walk through a tropical downpour, the defibrillator of thunder charging my arrhythmia back to life. How does apprehension unfold into exhilaration so seamlessly?
If given the chance, it can, and it will.
I followed you to the rain-ripened creek and we sank in, the seam of the water rising to meet our throats. You sang a lullaby, siren-like, and I – half drunk sailor – was caught by it. We held each other beneath the soft water and the rain left us. The sun returned, its dazzle commanding our attention as steam rose from stones. A billowing thunderhead shifted against the blue, reminding you of New Mexico’s big sky.
Emerging, we drip-dried below whispering treetops. A rustling wind made friends with us then, a wind whose kind voice suggested I view all things with sleepy eyes. Standing there with you, I thought I might be riding some sort of stationary current, aware of external motion from the vantage point of perfect stillness.
Standing there with you, I leapt from the fire of doing into the cradle of not-doing, the two places rubbing together and making sparks.
My heart moves so fast that it almost has me scrambling after it. But no, we are connected – it can only run so far before it’s left with no choice but to wait for me, jerked to a halt, a dog reaching the end of its leash.
That said, once I’d seen you off safely and on time, I went back to the bed you slept in, still warm with the aliveness of your body, and I wept and wept.
The whole history of my life stood before me: a spiral, a cathedral, dirt road, river. A sacred calendar, its entirety known only to me, only thought of as sacred by me.
I can withstand the sun and wind, I thought to myself. I can withstand the intangible, the horror, the splendor. But not this rain, these rising rivers – Oh Transcendent Energy, haven’t I seen enough rain?
Rain, rain, the scent of rain and six ways to smell it.
One, to sit sheltered in an open place and breathe the secrets of aesthetic contemplation.
Two, the often unwanted and always unsterilized hypodermic syringe of earth’s atmosphere, bringing diseases and floods and loss.
Three, a smell that is parallel to the memory of every failed love affair that left you laid out like the boxer who went down in the last round, moaning like the broken dreams of an aspiring actor with the looks for radio.
Four, the scent of heavy rain mingling with Chinese takeout steaming from the bag as you do not hurry up the driveway because there’s no one to come home to, and you don’t particularly like the book you’re reading so you may or may not finish it, and the house will be freezing, and you’re as blue as a well-worn bowling ball that no one chooses anymore because times have changed, sick as an overflowing ashtray, and tired of being so shy that it keeps you from having friends or trying an open mic.
Five, the intoxication of dripping madness on brick houses and tin mailboxes while demon desires slake their thirst with uncommon fluids, and people who were once good-looking and bright now wear straight-jackets and beat their heads against padded walls.
Six, to smell grace, to smell the line between sleep and awake, to smell the syllables in a poem written about something you’ll never forget, like shooting stars or hot buttered rum or old movies or golden prairies or empty train-tracks or the first time you saw fireflies or the street address of someone tangled up in your soul.