Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Angels of Rain

Yesterday afternoon, Maclovio and I went out for our usual ramble to the top of the mountain. The sky was blue, the wind sharp and the air moist and heavy. Everywhere the signs of spring are showing forth: a few manzanita bushes are hung with the delicate clusters of pink, bell-shaped flowers that the bees so love; buttercup leaves are six inches tall now, but still without flower stalks or buds; and the limbs of the black oaks are pebbled with tiny, egg-shaped buds that will soon split open to release little tufts of chartreuse and rose leaf babies. In all, it was a perfect March day.

We were just starting up the flank of the mountain’s peak when I noticed the extraordinarily beautiful clouds that were beginning to sail across the sky west of the summit, where they would periodically blot out the sun. We are often witness to the arrival of storms because of our 3,700-foot elevation and, as rain was predicted, I didn’t pay much attention to them at first. I was busy looking for wildflower seedlings and watching Mac’s antic racings. But when the light dimmed again, I glanced up and was struck with amazement.

The sun was hidden behind a cloud of such astonishing beauty that it brought me to a complete halt. It was a huge, multi-layered construction, scudding along like a noble ship. Its underbelly was a smoky blue-gray, hazy and delicate as a silk chiffon scarf, while its interior was an inky indigo, very dense and pregnant-looking. Toward the top, it was a confection of curlicues of pale gray and lavender, the topmost, sun-shot edges of which were brilliant, radiant white and trailed off into enchanting wisps, curls and tatters that shifted and reconfigured themselves with each passing moment.

We were now high up on the southwestern shoulder of the mountain, with a view across the western, southern and eastern foothills and eastward to the Sierra crest. The clouds were coming from the southeast and coming fast before a chill wind, like a magnificent flotilla of fantastic ships. Each was distinct from its neighbors and each was a wonder of form, color and fluid dynamics. This was no mere storm front. These were living beings, magnificent, purposeful, endlessly generative – the very angels of rain.

And I thought, then, of my friend Liz, who is lying in an ICU on life support, which will probably be withdrawn today or tomorrow so that she can pass peacefully into the next world. She will pass through that portal very much like one of these magnificent clouds, stately and pregnant with all she has been and all she has accomplished in this world. It seemed to me that these clouds were a special benediction upon her life which has been of such great service to her community; a reminder that each of us can be an angel of rain, bringing life-giving moisture to our small piece of creation.

And I also contemplated the privilege of being alive, in that moment, to be witness to the magnificent sweep of vista and wind and the endless mutability of the natural world. What a gift each passing moment is, each breath, each encounter, each sight and thought and word! I was witness to the passage of a flight of angels and to the exhortation to live freely, love much, give all. In so doing, we become multilayered, endlessly mutable, absolutely original and unique. We anoint our little patch of earth like an angel of rain.

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