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Praise the Rain

When the rain pours down as it is doing just now, it’s easy to see the world as a dull, unfavourable place. If it lasts for more than a few days, life itself becomes dreary, muted.

I grew up in Vancouver. Those long winter stretches of grey skies and constant rain were not fun, admittedly. The shooshing of traffic over slick roads, the mucky lawns, and torrents of water, pouring through the gutters, dripping off trees. You’d feel cold and wet, just looking out the window. It made you feel like burrowing under blankets, sipping heavy soups, a glass of dry red wine to warm you up.

But we’d make it through, and when the sun appeared, we’d celebrate the new lightness of being with a bounce in the step, a quicker laugh, a leisurely stroll in the park.

The other side of lightness and warmth

The darkness and rain are just the other side of lightness and warmth. I love the languor and warmth of a sunny summer’s day, but I’ll also take the inner warmth sitting by an evening fire while the winds wail and rain pounds on the roof.

Not long after we moved to Pender, I met a fellow who’d recently moved here from rural Ontario. He and his family had spent one enchanted summer on Pender. It was so special, he thought, he needed to live here.

By January of his first year, he decided he’d made a big mistake. The rain, the grey, the penetrating dampness, the unrelenting darkness from the trees around his house. He was going crazy, he said, he wanted the sun.

The freezing temperatures of an eastern Canadian winter were bearable, as long as there were clear, open skies and the movement of the sun through the day.

“We’re leaving Friday,” he told me, and I happened to see him that day filling up his van at the Driftwood gas bar. His wife and child looked miserable waiting inside the vehicle, facing the long journey back home. He hoped to follow the sun across the country to the brighter promise of Sudbury, Ontario.

Leaving bad weather behind

I could feel his pain. The idea of leaving bad weather behind is attractive. Jennifer and I used to love a hit of mid-winter sun and heat, and we’d flee to the beaches of the Mayan Riviera or Cabo San Lucas on the west coast of Mexico. But it hadn’t solved much when we returned to the same dreariness at home.

I’ve never been able to leave something I don’t like at the back door. I can try to will dark feelings out of existence, but they never go away. When Jen and I came home from Mexico, the rain puddles were just as deep, the dampness just as pervasive as it was when we left. Just as depressing, if that’s the way you see it.

Far better to see this kind of weather as something that just is. The flip side of sunny weather. It may be darker, but it’s just as profound, just as life-enhancing.

You don’t have to find joy in the rain to accept it. You don’t have to find meaning in the grey drabness of these “miserable days.” You just have to find them.

The muck around the woodpile, the clogged eaves, the slippery deck, the rain splashing on hot bread loaves being carried from Mildrith back to the kitchen. The cold in the house in the morning, the wind-storms and power outages, the slivers in the hand from chopping firewood. The darkness at four in the afternoon.

It seems a struggle, compared to the stillness of a summer evening, with that last glass of wine and the sun just below the horizon, and it’s almost bedtime.

Praise the rain

Winter is here:

“Praise the rain; it brings more rain.

Praise the rain; it brings more rain.”

Joy Harjo, “Praise the Rain” 1

Praising it all — the winter muck and the summer wine — brings everything together into a totality, a one-ness. The light and dark, the mud and grass, the sunlight and rain, contentment and restlessness: they’re all the same. We don’t have to choose one over the other, we don’t have to behave a certain way. They just are.

“Doesn’t that sound lovely?” he said, tongue in cheek, hearing a note of banality in the statement?

And yet, you can’t separate the “hissing of summer lawns” from the bitter south-easterlies of December. You can’t appreciate the garden’s scented air in late Spring without the dank smell of muck in early December.

It’s no different in your own life, really — the mystery of existence, the black and white, the good and bad.

The warring aspects of our world

All of these mysteries, even the menacing note of a fallen fir tree across the electrical wires, a power outage, can make you pay attention to the warring aspects of our life on this island.

They are part of our natural world, our lives, and utterly uncontainable.


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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
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Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven.
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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  1. Praise the Rain by Joy Harjo is from her poetry collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, published by W.W. Norton. Listen to a reading and commentary of the poem on the podcast “Poetry Unbound.” 

5 thoughts on “Praise the Rain

  1. Utterly beautiful writing. Thank you for reframing the rain and darkness. Just the reminder I needed as we nudge ever closer to solstice.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. Reframing the rain and darkness is easier said than done. I just figure working on my outlook is better than falling into the pits of despair.

  2. I like to think of rain as refreshing the earth and our souls. And yes, I agree the cold and dampness makes me climb into warm cozy clothing that I some times miss in the summer..

    1. Yes, as I said the winter is just the flip side of summer!

  3. […] (or island life in general) isn’t for everyone. I’ve told the story here of the fellow I met several years ago who moved his young family to Pender after spending one […]

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