Monday, May 18, 2009

One man's house

I have been sitting in my living room, staring at my laptop, for nearly a half hour. I want to write something profound and moving, because I feel it all swirling just beneath the surface. The other night I took semi-detailed notes on an event I wanted to write about, but the thought of pulling them out and composing a coherent essay is exhausting.

There are other thoughts running through my brain these days, such as the complexity of love in all its forms – familial, fraternal, romantic, divine. And then there is that most elusive love of all, the love of one's enemy. I definitely don't have the energy for that post right now.

No, I am sitting here staring at my laptop, because I am mostly enamored by something so ordinary in Portland that even mentioning it seems pointless. Tonight, I am enamored by the rain. Perhaps more accurately it is the smell of the rain that is captivating me.

Sitting by the window after a string of gorgeously warm and sunny days inviting we denizens of Stumptown to imagine summer in full swing, I am struck by the fact that in all of the autumn, winter, and spring rains we have had, it has been years since I stopped to smell the rain. It's such a distinctive aroma, and it wafted through the window unexpectedly as the sky turned it's final shade of night. My first thought was, "Oh, how I've missed that smell!" My second thought was, "How did I miss it when it's always raining?"

It sprung upon me tonight, held me down and wouldn't let me go. In minutes I will turn off the lamp and lay on my dark bed, drowsy mind dancing slowly to the rhythm of rain falling gently on the walkway below my window. In my dreams, I will wrestle with the rain until dawn, demand some kind of answer for an ineffable question. Perhaps I will awaken with a name that dissolves on my lips before I can speak it.

The rain speaks to me in so many ways. All the powerful imagery comes to mind of cleansing and baptism, growth and refreshment. The first time I came to Portland, I was in awe of the vividness of the greens here. Unless you grew up near a rainforest, there is no way to prepare for how green the Pacific Northwest is. Four years later I can tell you that it is a 9 month deposit of rain that produces the pristine perfection of lush vegetation set against sapphire skies during the summer. It's well worth it.

Rain brings to mind Lauryn Hill's performance on MTV's Unplugged 2.0, the recording of which is the last new material we've heard from Ms. Hill in nearly a decade. Near the end she plays Bob Marley's "So Much Things to Say", which includes the lines:

Though the wicked may find me guilty
Jah will prove my innocence
'Cause when that rain
When that rain falls
It don't fall on one man's house
Remember that

This is Marley's rendition of a troublesome part of Jesus' sermon on the mount. Why so troublesome? Because the original statement is that the rain falls on both the just and unjust, which is meant to underscore Jesus' remarks immediately prior: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."

There I go, marking the head of a trail I have neither the courage nor the energy to explore tonight. Suffice to say, the smell of the rain is moving me to contemplate the deeply subversive call to love my enemy and the necessity for all of those symbolic functions of rain to come into play for such a call to be followed.

The rain is singing redemption songs, and redemption is a welcome companion tonight.


dbj said...

Beautiful, Ramon. Thanks for writing this - for the few moments while I was reading I felt like I was in my own dark room, lying down and listening to the rain.

Kristialyn Johnson said...

I only had a few moments to start reading this post, but after I started I just couldn't stop. Gorgeous descriptions. I feel the same as dbj, I just want to listen to the rain beating against the roof of the house while I'm snuggled up in bed...maybe I'd like some cocoa too.

Sarah Asay said...

i love the thought if rain and lauryn hill.... beautiful imagery....