Forest Rains

(Free Stock Photo, Dreamstime)

I’m sitting out on the screened-in porch listening to the forest prepare for rain. It’s both sensual and removed sharing protected space from most of the elements. I can hear the breeze rise to a wind in the treetops, yet I don’t feel it against my skin. The young spring leaves, newly greening just this week, help turn the entire forest into an echo chamber for raindrops and birdsong — something sorely missed in the silence of snow.

The air freshens before, during, and after the rain. Part of me aches for the rain to fall harder and for longer. Our land is tinder dry at the moment, and the threat of forest fire is always close. Still…

…all things new.

Dwelling in this screened enclosure — both indoors and outdoors at the same time — I’m in awe at how loud peace. This liminal space invites me to experience the beauty and chill of rain as well as warmth and protection of home intersecting with one another. Bird species call to their like, trees drink in what moisture falls.

It is here God walks in the cool of the day.

I understand that ancient peoples of the Near East would have appreciated the imagery of God walking at the cool of the day because the tyranny of the sun would have abated somewhat. Where I live, we know cold.

All kinds of cold.

We’ve just come through a long, dreary winter that seemed to never want to end. The snow stayed for as long as it possibly could, right to the last dirty, icy snowbank. This thaw has a different kind of cold than the -40C temperatures we experience in the depth of winter. The cold of the thaw is liminal, like my spring rain echo chamber, in that we can feel the newly warmed sun on our faces and arms but the chill from the still frozen earth keeps us shivering. We aren’t sure whether to wear parkas or jackets; our bodies are too cold, but then they’re too hot; sickness creeps in easily if we aren’t careful.

Yet so eager are we to welcome spring that we open up our BBQs and feast in shorts and winter boots; coats are tied around our waists; and we stand and stare for ages at the first pussywillows we find because the trees always know.

God walking in the cool of the day.

The coolness tonight is a welcome balm after long, dusty days without rain. Yes, it’s reminiscent of our recent frigid weather, but it is also full of promise. It’s the kind of coolness that urges me to wrap myself in a down comforter but stay in my chair on the porch; it’s the kind of coolness that is gentle, refreshing, and invigorating. The rain falls but the birds sing on; the wind is still audible; and the squirrel still taunts the family dog.

God walking in the cool of the day.

The truly miraculous event, though, is not so much all of these things intersecting with one another. Rather, it’s my willingness and ability to pause, sit, and listen to it. Even more, it is my openness to be changed by it. When I realise that these liminal spaces have the power to harm as well as to heal, I begin to understand the power of presence.

When the worries of my life forbid me from pausing in just such a way as to breathe in rain-soaked air or hear the birds echo across the treetops, I am closed to God walking in the cool of the day. Yet liminal space is not so linear that it relies on my degree of openness before I am transformed.

Science tells me fresh air will inflate my lungs whether I remember I am breathing it or not. The degree to which I inhale that air — be it shallow or deep — is up to me. How much the rain or the birdsong penetrates my conscious self remains up to me.

Awakening to awareness is God walking with me in the cool of the day — this permeation of the senses that nurtures life. Sometimes it’s peaceful like tonight. Other times it’s overwhelming, like during times of uncontrollable anxiety that threatens to consume me (“If I can only shut the world out, I can control the panic.”). Most times it is a strange mixture of the two and, like in liminal space, boundaries become blurry without any fine lines.

In awakening to awareness I begin to desire to walk with God in the cool of the day. My fevered self, needing relief from the heat of the day’s trials, learns that the forest comes alive in the rain and in the coolness. Both beckoning God to come and celebrating God’s presence, it lifts up a raucous noise that comes across to the human ear as the most melodious music.

And it is sweet.



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