And so again, here I am. Gazing across the valley, shades of grey overhead inviting me up into the bulging bottom surfaces of clouds drifting slowly downwind. A steady sequence of thunder-rumbles sound from both a couple miles to the east and from the ever-present slope of the small ridge across the creek: the direct path and the echo just a split second apart as the sound spreads across the land, the rolling, tumbling echo revealing in its extended rhythms the shape of the land it touches along the way.
I am waiting. Watching. Listening. Bearing witness to the Here and to the Now. And hoping — yes, against my inner Buddhist aspirations — hoping for a downpour, for the relief of rain, for the exuberance of immersion. For each shock of lightning-flash, every tumbling extended thunder-roll, all that wind-driven water angling from cloud above to earth below.
Yet, wait I must. Watch, I do. Listen: to the eternal story, the original language. Finches cheep, doves flutter, grosbeaks, jays, titmouse, chickadee all clamor for a snack before the storm. Winds slip through piñons thirty feet in front of me, and in deeper surges, across the hill a hundred yards to my right. A plane passes through, and the sky stills as if giving it space.
The storm now seems to pull into itself, the thunder more sparse and retreating further upwind, this leading edge quieting, even as the hiss of sprinkling rain begins to call from the leaves ringing the yard. And just as gently fades away, bird chirps and an early cricket returning to the fore.
Overhead, black specks sweep across the patchy shades of grey: swifts (swallows?) by the dozens grazing the evening sky, revealing by their actions the unseen lattice of insects that fill the air. A nuthatch tick-tick-ticks on the dead hulk of the old plum tree, storing a seed for later. A hummer swings by to say hello, pauses in place three feet away, then casually lands on a nearby currant branch. Eighteen birds burst from feeders and into the surrounding trees, three dozen wings raising a quick flickering tremor, while a half dozen others look around from the feeders: the foolishly slow or the wisely unflustered.
With diminishing rumbles from above, the sky brightens and my hopes fade, and the evening vigil once again settles into one of the simple life of the valley, no thrilling stormy climax seeming likely. Yet who am I to complain, as soft sun seeps across the yard, trees shining brilliant green against darkening clouds slipping eastward and away to drop their bounty on the thirsty plains? This is the place where I’m welcomed into presence each and every day. And on most days – for a minute, or ten, or sixty (today already more than that, though I would never guess) – this yard, this valley, this earth/sky, this landscape of soil and soul, lures me into these expanded moments of simply being present, witnessing.
And then – a sort of teasing poke at my unfulfilled hopes for a torrent – here comes today’s quieter choice of climax, courtesy of the valley’s top-notch special effects team: a sudden arching rainbow, stretching from just beyond the far valley wall across the little nearby cottonwood bosque, and landing over Sally’s hill, right down there at the end of our half-mile road, I’d say. Bands of color burning bright, inner purples and greens rippling in duplicate, and now the second, fainter bow glows above. There, so close: rain and sun meet in air.
It draws me out from my porch couch, into the yard, down the driveway. A gently dance of tiny droplets tenderly tousles my hair, softly brushes my face. All is well.