It has been hot for days. So hot that you could not leave a window open. So hot that you had to keep the curtains shut wherever the sun shone in, to prevent heat getting into the house.
Yes, we have air conditioners, but they cannot cope with such heat, either. They struggled to do more than circulate warm air in our open plan house.
Outside, the garden was wilting. The trees were losing their leaves. I decided to risk the water bill and give them a drink. They sang to me, afterwards, but the song was brief. The heat went on.
I remember when we had our feast of Beltane, not so long ago – the beginning of November. We threw flowers into the pond, then, praying for rain, but it didn’t come.
With the heat of the days enervating us so much, and hating to see another drought take away my garden, I prayed for rain each night. I woke this morning wishing for rain, a respite, a drink, at least an overcast day to stop the sun beating down on us.
I was home, alone, when it happened. The heavens opened, and it rained. These were not drops, they were strands, they were sinews and muscles of rain, falling from the heavens to pound down on everything below.
At first, I was happy. My garden would have a good drink. I was glad that I had watered, too, because the rain would now soak into the soil and not just run off the surface. It would be a good rain, a beneficial rain. But then it kept on raining.
I am used to the storms in our sub-tropical region being heavy at times, but they always pass in a very short time. They’re usually over in ten to fifteen minutes, but this one went on.
Our home was built on a sloping block where the surveyors said there was a water flow in wet weather. Not a stream, but where the water gathers and flows downhill when it rains. So we installed many catchments and drainage pits and pipes to channel the water away into the storm water drains but still, in heavy rain our laundry courtyard, which sits on the upper part of the land where the water first gathers, struggles with the water dammed by our house.
Each wet season we check the drains to clear them of leaves and debris. Despite a lot of water gathering there, they cope okay, usually, but this time they didn’t. Those muscles of water pounded down and the courtyard water levels kept rising.
They flooded the garden shed and climbed the wall of the house slab. It was eight inches deep and still gathering. I feared that it would enter the house.
The drains were blocked. I tried to unblock them over their grilles but only two began to gurgle. I couldn’t move the grilles with my bare hands, the water was too deep, the rain was too heavy. I couldn’t think straight.
I’m out there in a long kaftan, prayer beads I had just made hanging at my neck, the tassels soaked and wet cloth clinging to my skin. All around me, lightning flashed and thunder cracked the ether.
When the lightning lit up the air with a huge branch just feet away from me, I gave up struggling with the grilles and dashed back inside. For the next hour, I sat on my knees at the laundry door, scooping leaves off one of the drains that was still draining – a small opening just outside the laundry door – always watching the water levels against the brickwork, wondering if this little drain would be enough.
It was monotonous work, became automatic. But then, the beauty of the water struck me, its clarity (where it didn’t have debris floating in it), the purity of the rainwater. I reached my hand into it, felt its beauty, its life.
I sat back on my haunches for a moment (not for long, because the drain kept clogging with more debris), and looked up at the grey sky, the rain pouring down, and felt the trees and plants singing. They weren’t worried about my house. They were enjoying the beneficence pouring down on them.
I realized that the prayer beads I had just made were a wood called Saptaparni, also known as cheesewood or Milkwood Pine. It’s a hindu sacred tree, belonging to the divine couple, Shiva and Parvathi. The wood exudes a milky sap like the milk poured on a lingam, denoting the virility of life. It is said to purify the doshas, to enable Panchakarma, the cleansing and rejuvenation of the body, mind, and spirit, restoring balance and well being.
I remembered my piece on the Tandava, written here, as the lightning cracked again. The lightning reminded me of Shiva.
Here was the blessing I had asked for, prayed for. How many others had prayed for the same thing? And now the heavens had opened up, and a deluge came down. It really was a bit too much. I wondered if this was the beginning of another flood. We lived through a grand flood in our city not that long ago. It’s not something I want to do again too soon.
So what could I do? I thought of my rajadeva, could he help? I remembered his kiss from long ago, and so I relived it, sending him a kiss and asking him for help. Then I thought, I am an element of the divine. I am co-creator of my existence. What do I believe in? I began to gently blow air through my lips, imagining that I was blowing the clouds out to sea. I began to wave my hands above my head, imagining that I was waving the clouds further away.
I heard the thunder crack, so close. The lightning flashed, too near. My son’s little dog, a shihtzu, sat beside me like a lucky pixiu, watching my endeavors, not phased at all. I thought, calm the ether, calm the elements, and reached out healing into the air, into the sky.
There was no immediate result, so I kept on working, scooping away the leaves and debris, throwing it onto the garden bed in the old vegetable patch so it wouldn’t re-enter the water. I thought that perhaps my metaphysical efforts were not valid, that magic like that would not work in such large scope.
Then I noticed that the rain seemed a little less heavy, that the water levels had reduced a couple of milimeters, and then that the thunderclaps were becoming more distant.
In minutes, the rain had eased. I was able to take some time to try to clear the other drains again. My son’s little dog bounced through the water as if she was in the shallows at the beach – happy, excited.
Was it a coincidence, or a confirmation of what I believed? Was I mad or was I living my spiritual dimension?
It didn’t matter. I realized that blessings must come from the laws that hold this physical realm together. When I wished for rain, it came, but only when the physical conditions could climb to a level that enabled that rain – and then, those same physical conditions meant that the rain would be heavy and prolonged. Such is life on planet Earth.
The aftermath left water in our walls, leaking all over the inside window sills for hours. The drainage hole in the laundry floor, which connects to the outside drain, did well up and flood the tiles. But that was the worst of it for us.
I was exhausted, but actually happy that my garden got a drink. Plus it had been so hot, and my saturated garb had made me refreshingly cool.
Others did not fare so well. By the time my husband came home and was able to remove the grilles and clear the drains, climb on the roof and clear the gutters again (that he had done not so long ago) a neighbor was working with a chain saw, trying to remove a tree that had come down.
On the news, we saw that flooding had happened all over our city, taking away cars with it, and many trees came down. The tandava had wreaked destruction, but had also brought life – like the monsoons of India.
The respite was only brief. The rain has come back, but is now slow and steady. I can only wait and see if the ground will become so saturated that it will flood, like the last great floods we had. (Not so good). And the weather report is for more rain in the days ahead. If it wasn’t for fear of past floods, I’d see it as a blessing. So I am choosing to see it as a blessing, and taking a wait and see attitude for whatever else may come.
In every moment of challenge, there is beauty to be found, if you look. I enjoyed walking through the water in my bare feet. I enjoyed getting so saturated in the rain. I enjoyed watching the dog gamboling in the water. I loved the way the water felt when I wove my hand through it.
Yes, it was hard work. Yes, I was exhausted. But what a wonderful and immediate way to reconnect with life, with nature, and with the divine.
A moment of blessing, for all that.