On Labor Day, it rained.
I woke to the pleasant dim light of cloud cover, and by the time I had showered and gone downstairs to make breakfast, it was starting to drizzle. Just barely noticeable if you looked closely. Then the rain increased its tempo to a steady downpour. But there was no wind, no thunder, only the peaceful patter of droplets coming down.
I was glad it was raining. I was glad it wasn’t a day when I had to go into work and brave the elements. If you take public transit, you have to be prepared for rain or you will arrive at work soaked to the skin, as I did a week ago.
I was glad it was raining. The rain would give my husband a day of rest from preparing and painting the trim on our wrought-iron porch railings. He’d spent all day Sunday scraping and washing.
He needed the rest.
I was glad because the dim light let me sleep late after several bad nights the previous week.
I needed the rest.
Rain is Nature’s way–God’s way through Nature, if you believe in God–of showing us our limits. Of gently urging us away from the “24/7″ madness of the culture. In ancient societies, hunters couldn’t hunt, gatherers couldn’t gather, farmers couldn’t farm in heavy rain. It must have been like an unexpected holiday. Perhaps they sat around and told stories on such days, dug into their stores, created a feast. Or lacking stores, ate little, providing those who prepared food (probably the women) rest as well. Resting their digestive systems as well.
Nature can be cruel, too. I don’t want to minimize the tragedies of flood victims, hurricane victims, and others whose lives have been devastated by natural violence. There are whole books there, considerations of theology and, yes, politics that I don’t feel equipped to deal with, at least not here. But in the normal course of the daily, weekly, monthly round, Nature is usually benign if we will open our eyes to receive her wisdom and teaching.
There is a marvelous essay by Thomas Merton called “Rain and the Rhinoceros” that says all this much better than I have. It is one of my favorite pieces of his, published in what is probably my favorite Merton collection, Raids on the Unspeakable.