When the fires hit Los Angeles in December, T-CEP reported that we’d not had rain for 250 days. That was two months ago.
I have enough drywall on my faux-wood paneling, enough real pine on the floors, and enough trim around doors and windows to make the inside of my home look and feel like a real house—except when it rains, and the drops fall like a percussion ensemble on the aluminum carport roof.
Before bed, every night and in any weather, I open a window. The sound of crickets takes me back to my childhood summers in New England—until Coyotes and Great Horned Owls, whom I love despite their appetite for house cats, remind me I’m in Topanga.
One night last month, I woke up to the sweet sound of rain. I should say “almost rain,” a sound so faint, more spits than drips, as though the shower is too light to land, but kisses the trees and house on its way by. Little sounds, whispers of water on tin, but I’m awake, and in the sanctuary of night, I hear the private, intimate prayer. It lasts only a moment, but it’s enough.
About 7 a.m., I push open the curtains to a still cloudy sky. Shiloh and I get in the car and drive over to the Santa Maria trail. As we walk, I try to put words to the feeling. I listen to the air, to the trees, to the sky. I listen to my steps on the dirt. They sound quiet, yet precise, gentler than usual. The birdsong, more delicate. I reason that this makes no sense, but reason is such a little thing. My mind feels softer. In twenty years, I’ve never felt so much serenity on the trail. Is everything responding to the promise of water? Have the clouds actually softened my mind?
I wear Vibrams, shoes with toes and a manmade sole about 2 mm thick. They’re more like socks than shoes. When I walk on a trail, I feel the earth’s surface. Today, a thin layer of the effects of the almost rain, enough to create a textural difference, but not enough to change its color, covers the path. The disturbance of my feet lays fresh and solitary, like the first steps on new-fallen snow.
I think about the fires and about how long it’s been since we’ve had real rain. I wonder how the plants survive close to 300 days without it and imagine what it feels like to have wet leaves but dry roots.
That morning Shi and I meet no one on the trail. It’s magical.
Two days later, the prayer is answered: real rain arrives. I’d gone to bed as usual, window open, but I got up to close it when the sound of my three-foot indoor chimes became so loud I had to choose between fresh air and sleep. That night I used ear plugs.
The next day the sky is bright blue. Shi and I go back to the trail, eager to witness the wetness. I want a solid hour, and if we start on Viewridge, we end the hike going uphill, which is more work for both of us, so we start on Santa Maria and head north. The trail has changed. Deep rivulets divide the path; erosion exposes layers of sandstone. Under the warm sun, mist rises from the ground, evaporating. Rain is falling up. I cry. I laugh. I sing. The trail feels joyful, the still, monastic scene replaced by jubilance and refreshment.
Before we reach Viewridge, Shi and I turn around. When we do, the sun is before us, and I gasp. At the tip of every leaf and branch the same drops we passed now reflect the sun. Billions of twinkles. We go even slower now, stopping several times to see if I can catch the rainbow colors shifting in individual droplets. Red to orange to yellow to lime is easy. Cobalt and violet are more fleeting. I cry again.
Years ago, a Jewish friend told me that David in the Torah was said to have had beautiful eyes, not because of how they looked, but because of how they saw. Today I think about the subjects of what we call “news.” I think about how I feel when I see yet another online argument or hear someone speak about themselves or another with carelessness.
Then I think about the power of water, tiny droplets of water, and how, when enough of them fall and flow, they carve rivulets on a trail or form a Grand Canyon. I think of a lover’s tears and a child’s. I think of a rainbow.
I think of my friend, Candace, who is posting a Season for Nonviolence quote on Nextdoor every day until the anniversary of Gandhi’s death in April. I think of the documentaries I’ve seen this season: on the forced migration of refugees and the people who help them; on the couple in their nineties who met playing the lottery, fell in love, and were forced to separate by one of their children; on a couple in Canada, who chose to expose food waste, lived for six months on only discarded food, and salvaged $20,000 worth of perfectly good groceries; on a young woman standing up to racism and police brutality; on the fire chief who spearheads the effort to train first responders to resuscitate drug overdose victims; on the upscale restaurant in Cleveland staffed by released prison inmates and run by a father who cries when he tells his infant son about his own brokenness.
One drop, one tear, one action, one step at a time, we are all in this beautiful storm together. I pray to have eyes like David.
Sage Knight is a local ghostwriter and Literary Midwife. She and her Golden Retriever, Shiloh, live at Top O’ Topanga and welcome your visits to www.SageKnight.com.