Richard Wagamese (born 1955, near Minaki, Ontario) is an award winning author and journalist from the Ojibway Wabasseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, Canada
There’s thunder rolling in from the southwest. Against the hump of mountain it echoes and rolls across the lake accompanied by a chill, wet-smelling breeze. The aspen leaves tumble on their stems. There is a sough of wind in the branches of the pines like a great bear. Watching storms form and gather is a treat at this elevation and I never really tire of it.
But I’ll remember the spring and early summer of this year for the rain. It’s been relentless. The total number of days going into July when we could sit out in the sun on our deck was four. The rest of the time, the land was drenched and it got to be both tedious and frustrating. Despite the lushness of the lawn and the happy choruses of birds, the tedium of being kept indoors was difficult.
We live in an area that’s supposed to be semi-desert. I usually stop mowing the lawn in July because the heat and the sun will parch everything and nothing grows. If you need to do any kind of work outdoors it has to be done between eight to ten in the morning or early evening. The rest of the time it’s just too hot. I tried working out there several times in the first year. I won’t do it again.
That’s what we’re used to. So the deluge was disheartening to say the least. We human beings have become accustomed to the idea that we can rise above anything. But Mother Earth when she has her own agenda scuttles that notion very easily. It’s the stuff of burgeoning grumpiness to try and overturn her judgment.
Yet there’s something magical about a mountain lake shrouded in mist and the smell of the land all rich and lush everywhere you go. I love the fungal, boggy smell when things are drenched. It’s always been the smell of life to me. As much as I can grouse about the way things are I’m always open to the way things could be.
On a rare day when it wasn’t raining, we went for a hike into the back country. Walking through the thick bush was amazing. Everywhere I looked it seemed as though the land was celebrating. I’d never seen things in such an exuberant state before. Where the heat and dryness normally shrunk and browned things, the ongoing wet expanded and green everything. It was marvelous.
We walked by a river that was swollen with rain and the late melt of snow on the upper elevations. You could hear the roar of it a long way off. Standing there on the boggy bank, seeing that titanic force was thrilling and I was swept up by the raw power of it. There was the low rumble of huge rocks displaced by the hard flume of water and sent careening along the current.
A little later, a few miles downstream, there was a waterfall. It was enormous. The plunge of it was absolutely mesmerizing. The sound of it was nearly deafening. The sight of it rendered us speechless and we could not stop looking at it. I took a few pictures but they seemed dull in comparison to the real thing. The white mist, gray of the rocks, the mercury sheen of the water in the plunge pool collectively could render even the best writer wordless.
It rained again. We walked back through it. The drops were the size of grapes at times and at others, just a relentless perfectly vertical drizzle. But the feeling of seeing the effect of all that water made the soak worthwhile. The earth was drinking. That’s how it felt. The land was filling itself again with the potential of life and to be in it was a healing thing. There wasn’t one of us that wasn’t grateful for the gift of seeing that.
Rain is the tears of Mother Earth. It is cleansing. It is a wash of spirit. It empowers everything. That’s what my people say and I never really understood that until this year. Rain. It is the blood of all of us. Everywhere. Standing there, drenched, drawing the smell of Creation into my being, was to be able to feel the undeniable connection we human beings have to the land and all it contains.
These days when we hear dire environmental news or the impending start of another mega-project on the land or on the water, those of us aware of that connection shudder. We know that environmental disaster starts with the first turn of a spade or a bulldozer blade..
We are of the earth. We belong to her. She belongs to us. What befalls her, befalls us. Something as simple as rain on your face can get you to that if you let it.