The first raindrops fall outside. “Attend to my work,” I remind myself of an approaching deadline. Yet, the tapping of rain insists. The lowering clouds frown. A wind stirs the limbs of an oak tree in the backyard of this bungalow in La Grande, Oregon. Sunshine glints upon raindrops on leaves and on ripening apples.
“Attend to my work.” I grab a jacket and head outdoors. The drops of rain on a glowing yellow apple speckled in red form a ring of jewels on the lower edges. Each drop is ephemeral, transparent, and dazzling. If I’d waited another few minutes, they would have fallen away, like this apple will fall, waiting to succumb to the earth’s relentless gravity.
The storm comes in waves upon the parched, waiting Grande Ronde Valley. Where ever the clouds touch down, they release the gift of freshwater. I’m dripping wet, raising my face to taste the elixir of life. Lift my arms high. Spin in a circle. Remember those thunderstorms when I was 11 and 12 in Westtown, Pennsylvania, the two years my Dad taught school there before returning to the National Park Service. My two brothers and I would race out of our farm house into the fields laughing, soaking wet, smelling the sulphur, and daring the lightning until the roars and flashes terrified us and we’d tumble back into the door pooling water with every step.
Sun cuts in like a glamorous new dance partner. Clouds edge back. Light illuminates green oak leaves tinging red in this turning time, this early October ritual of fall. Does the tree feel the cool, wet droplets on a leaf? Taste the rain? Sigh with gratitude?
“Every raindrop raises the sea,” I find myself saying, remembering a quote from reading the book, Dinotopia, A Land Apart from Time, with my son Ian when he was young. The line is part of a pledge in a utopian fantasy where people and dinosaurs live in peace. The whole quote goes like this:
“Survival of all or none. One raindrop raises the sea. Weapons are enemies even to their owners. Give more, take less. Others first, self last. Observe, listen, and learn. Do one thing at a time. Sing every day. Exercise imagination. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”― James Gurney, Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time
The words resonate. Here in this simple yard, the rain drops remind me of the power we have as individuals to make a difference in the most humble of ways, and collectively we can make a huge difference.
Rain is a miracle. Rain is a gift upon parched leaves, grasses, and tree needles. Rain yields life, but also death and destruction. I’m musing now, a few days later, after reading the tragedy of lives lost in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew, of Florida flooding and the racing path of battering storms and torrential downpours into the Carolinas. Now, every storm brings a talk of climate chaos, of worsening storms, of higher sea levels and greater flooding, of losses of lives both human and wildlife.
Yes, our actions literally are raising the sea but not in the way of Dinotopia. It’s time for a new rising of all of us . Take climate change seriously. Pay attention to what this gift of rain reminds us each day. We cannot live without freshwater, and in a warming climate, rain will increasingly become too scarce in some places and way too much in others. The more we follow the adage of Dinotopia–“give more, take less,” and the more we “exercise imagination,” the better chance we have of assuring future generations will know the simple beauty of a rain drop upon a turning leaf of October.