Image from the Wild Forests website
“Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By “they” I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.
The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world buns by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.
I came up here from the monastery last night sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper, It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it, all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.” Thomas Merton in an essay Rain and the Rhinoceros.
Merton and Tom Cowan both read Eckhart. I wonder if Cowan read Merton. Forty years ago Merton wrote about nature the same way Cowan writes now. I can almost imagine the Trappist monk sitting next to a tree doing something like Cowan’s meditation on the roots of things. Especially trees. He might not have used the I am, but then again…who knows.
I am the tree growing from the soil.
I am the soil gathered around the roots.
I am the roots searching for water.
I am water flowing through the soil.
I am the soil soaking up the water.
I am the water seeping into roots.
I am roots sucking up the water.
Cowan recommended slowly moving back and forth with this meditation until you can feel the cycle. Live it. Be it. If you can’t lean against a tree I use the image of the oak as a world tree. Often the root system is almost the same size as the branches. At least if it isn’t a big, old, beat up tree that looks more like an Ent than an oak.