Wednesday, September 24, 2014

68. The Sound of Rain on the Roof of Your Tent

Every once in a while I was lucky enough to be inside my tent, dry and comfy on a cool night, when it began to rain. On these occasions I would snuggle down into my sleeping bag, my eyes open in the dark, listening to the sound of the storm pattering on the canvas above me. I would smile, and think of the human rainstorm.

If you've never been part of a human rainstorm, you've probably also never been to summer camp. My favorite memory of doing this was when I was attending overnight camp at Point Reyes, a wilderness program on the coast of northern California. All of my counselors had hairy legs and dreadlocks, and I was convinced that they were real life fairies that lived in the California mountains, who would emerge once a year to sing songs and make s'mores with a bunch of children. The human rainstorm is a campfire game in which everyone is silent with their voices, but makes a series of hand movements that recreates the sounds of an approaching then retreating storm.

First we gently rub our hands together, palms flat against one another. This is the sound of wind through pine needles, the first breeze that brings the wall of chilliness, the sudden silence of forest creatures and rain somewhere on the horizon.

Next we begin to snap our fingers to no particular rhythm or beat. Now the first drops are falling, pinging onto flower petals, rolling down waxy leaves to drop in small beads to darken the forest floor beneath, one small circle at a time. Each drop is discernable from one to the next, the opening notes of an orchestra tuning before an audience that waits with bated breath.

The snapping fingers open up to flattened palms, now turned downward to pat a steady but irregular drumming on the tops of our thighs. The storm is above us now, the sky thick with rain, falling in a chorus to the dark earth. Far underneath, roots wait eagerly as the topsoil is soaked, pressing down with the weight of water, breaking through the soil to nourish the trees. Some storms will reach only this level, then pass by, letting the air pressure gently rise behind it. But not this storm. 

Now we are stomping our feet, each foot independent of the other, all of us separate in our patterns that form together to coalesce in a chaos of thunder. The rain is no longer simply falling, now it is crashing, crashing with Shakespearean melodrama and consuming all other sound. There are no individual raindrops, there is only the whole, a raging tempest above and around and through everything. 

It feels as though this will last forever, a kingdom of rain, where castles are built with thunder and dark water forms kings and queens as it cascades from the trees. But then time passes, as it always does, and the stomping becomes a patting, which becomes a snapping, then a gentle whisper, and then nothing at all.

Somewhere in all of this I have fallen asleep, in my tent beneath the sounds, and I drift safely into dreams of courts and jesters, splashing puddles in castles of clouds.

Love,
Clever Girl

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