I bundled up for a brisk walk in the chill air tonight, down coat wrapped around myself and my toddler, zipped up by my husband’s hands as we stood in the brightly lit kitchen. To my surprise, I stepped out into a warm, wetly shining night and my quick walk soon took me farther than I’d planned as I savored the warmth punctuated by a capricious breeze.
Then it began to drizzle, and then to rain, right when it was too late to go back and still a fair ways to go on.
I like walking in the rain. But sometimes I forget what I like.
Tonight, rain was not conducive to my goals. I wanted my son to fall asleep. Drizzle in his hair sparkled in lamplight, and driplets on his nose made him giggle. Besides, I hadn’t set out to walk in the rain. It had not been my intention. I hastened my steps homeward, anxious to return warm and dry.
We passed the part of the road that runs close to the lake, where my eyes naturally turned on the soothing sight. That is where I remembered to breathe. In and out. Relaxing into the moment I noticed:
Lamplight from across the lake shining through the trees and then through the mist throwing eerily gorgeous shadows across the dark surface of the water—strange, twisted shapes, changing with every slowing step I took.
Dripping rain in full and glorious surround sound—on leaves, on pavement, on branches. From the sky, from the trees, drip, drip, drop.
Soft dampness gradually accumulating, drop by drop, on cheeks and nose, the feel of it like a thousand patient kisses.
Soft breath—in and out, in and out—mine and baby’s, one slow one fast.
The serene wonder of the moment.
Then, faster than my slowed steps can account for, we were past the lake and past the moment and my mind moved on—trying to think out and puzzle through a million questions big and small.
The rain came down harder and I got worried. We might be soaked before we got home.
When did I forget how much I love the rain? When I was in my early twenties, I remember reaching out through my window on a rainy night and touching the air below the eaves, where the rain wasn’t falling. “Come quick!” I exclaimed to my roommate. “The air is soft! Feel how like a kitten it is!”
Another time, I went out to bring her home some French fries and came back soaking wet. To her astonished and concerned cries, I answered not to worry. I had simply stopped on my way to the canteen to enjoy the rain.
When did I forget?
As my coat began to soak through tonight, and the baby’s hair gradually became plastered to his head, I jogged briskly toward home, my breath coming faster and my heart pounding harder as I hastened to beat the weather. Perhaps it was the sound of my own labored breathing, or the feel of my heart pounding in my chest, that reminded me again and brought me back to myself again.
There was no lake to wow the senses now, just streetlamps and houses, but streetlamps can be holy too. The glistening of lamplight on wet pavement, punctuated by the shadows of damp leaves. Swollen drainage ditches, murky and mysterious in the transforming darkness. Again the breathing. My breath. The baby’s breath. His sudden and inexplicable exclamation of surprise and delight when I look down at his rain-moistened face. The giggle that makes up for so much.
I don’t understand why it is so hard to be present in the moment when the rewards for it are so great. As I lay in the darkness later, gradually soothing my son to sleep, I struggled to keep my straying mind from the puzzles and questions, and to focus fully on the beauty of a half-asleep baby cuddled warmly at my breast, his fingers drowsily exploring my bare belly button, slowly coming to quiet as he faded from wakefulness.
Then I rose from the bed, returned to the lighted kitchen and my life’s partner waiting patiently for me. And finished out a delicious night of wonder by making slow, sweet love to my beloved. Actually, that last bit hasn’t happened yet and that is why this narrative stops… here. Good night.