1040: All things that were, will be again
Day 1040: Friday, January 20, 2023
All things that were, will be again
Ask anyone living in Northern California what jumps to mind when they think of the last month and most likely it is one word — rain! There were weeks of storms, falling trees, and flooding. We lost power at very inconvenient times. People in our part of the county were frequently prevented from traveling due to road closures and Governor Gavin Newsom urged folks to stay home. Nonetheless we here at Starcross, unlike some of our neighbors, experienced only minor damage. All is well and for that we are grateful.
On one wild and furious day, Sister Julie chose as a Vespers reading Gary Snyder’s (1930 - ) poem, The Rainy Season. Eyes rolled in the chapel. Gary Snyder is often read here — poet, environmentalist, Zen practitioner, and kind person.
Snyder liked to spend time on those tall hermit-like towers watching for fires in the Northwest forests. He was once denied such a job because he had been a member of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union. It was on somebody's list as a "patriotically suspect" organization. Those were the McCarthy years. Snyder took a job as a lumberman instead, then worked in the woods. I always thought of him as a-way-back-in-the woods-person. But this poem was written about rain in Berkeley!
A steady drip from the eaves;
A trickle leaks down the wall.
Blankets piled in a dry corner….
The jazz of
Late night streets and all these people….
Most people don't live as I do, out in the country. They don’t worry about erosion, drainage ditches, falling limbs, and a youngster losing his boots as he sinks into the mud. The majority of folks seek shelter under umbrellas and walk on cement sidewalks. I think that's significant.
I shared a strong memory of urban rain when I wrote A Winter Walk. I was on the “T”, Boston’s subway system, and I remembered being impressed that the wetness had created a sense of community between us. College students had their wet heads in different books. It was the same with the younger kids dripping in the aisle and the old man trying to maneuver his umbrella through the door. The rain joined us together — reminding me of the many times we all face the same situations.
Issa (1763 - 1826), my favorite haiku poet, was once on a journey. He had a good horse, lots of warm clothing, and supplies for supper. He had been thinking of poems to come, and had a rather high opinion of himself, when he was caught in a sudden downpour. He quickly learned who he really was.
A sudden shower falls —
and naked I am riding
on a naked horse.
Whether I am raging against the storm in the country or trying to keep dry in town, it feels like a struggle I am going to lose! The most pleasant thing is to stay at home and follow the example of my cat — with the first raindrop, he finds a warm place to sleep. But even resting by the hearth, my thoughts can be troubled.
These storms call to mind a similarly wet winter a few years ago, in 2017, when Jerry Brown (1938 - ) was Governor of California. In his January State of the State address, he quoted John Donne’s (1583 - 1645) poem For Whom The Bell Tolls:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
And, after reciting Woody Guthrie’s (1912 - 1967) “This land is your land, this land is my land…” Governor Brown ended with the pledge, “California is not turning back. Not now, not ever.”
So, if we follow the former governor’s example rather than the cat’s, curling up and ignoring the storm isn’t an option. Instead, we can brave the storm. We can splash in the puddles like we did when we were five. We can stand and turn our faces up to the sky and get wet. This storm is raging and we cannot avoid it. However, as many poets have pointed out, there cannot be a rainbow without the rain!
A prophetess of the Cree nation had a vision that the Earth would be ravaged and polluted but then it would be renewed by “the Warriors of the Rainbow.” And, just as Jesus urged us on that hill by the Sea of Galilee, the sick, the poor, and the needy will then be cared for. The Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear (1868 - 1939) put it in simple terms, “All things that were, will be again.”
There is a Hopi chant that promises, when the earth is dying there will come a new tribe of all colors and all creeds. May it be so.
But until then there is nothing wrong in napping with the cat when the storm is too wild!