A Feast for the Senses: The Smell of Rain

While watching television a few nights ago, I caught the scent of rain coming through the front window. This is big news here, since it’s not that often that it rains enough to hear it, much less smell it.

But in the split second before my brain labeled the smell, before I even knew what was happening, I re-experienced every rain storm and downpour I’d ever known.

And they were, all of them, glorious.

It reminded me of a piece by Thomas Merton called “A Festival of Rain”:

I had better get this said before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute. By “they” I mean people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even the rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

…I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the corn fields, said Vespers, and lit the Coleman. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it, all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside….

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants. As long as it talks I am going to listen.

But I am also going to sleep. Because here in this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. For here I am not alien. The trees I know, the night I know, the rain I know. I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it, for I am not alien to it.

Source: Peak & Prairie. The Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Online Newsletter, June/July 1999. http://rmc.sierraclub.org/pandp/1999-06/page06-2.html

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