I woke up this morning to the sputtering of rain on the rooftop and had a deep sigh of gratitude and relief after days of daytime humid air and scorching heat. I simply wanted to notice the rain because the city noise literally often drowns its silent beauty. If it rains at 4am, the turbine noise of the zipping planes skyward from the nearby airport is thunderous to interrupt nature’s wet outpouring. As early as 5am, school buses already scurry our streets. In Metro Manila, rain brings more anxiety than reverie for its residents: how much rainfall? which area is flooding now? is another millennial Ondoy coming? are classes suspended? The losing innocence of city life. You read either our national dailies or tabloids and finding a section on some prose or poetry on rain is like finding a live orchid flower in the midst of a busy thoroughfare. The Native Americans are right on: the lostness of a people, its disintegration and disconnectedness, is connected to the absence of a common story or poems to tell and retell around a bonfire. Bhutan, still hanging on to their old stories and way of living remains one of the most peaceful countries in the world. In North America, where elevators and iphones rule, there are some few daring storytellers who keep their stories alive though often they come out as solitary voices from the wilderness. One is Brenda Peterson who lives on a beach studio by the Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington with the sea gulls, bald eagles, porpoises, harbor seals, orca pods, and gray whales. And equally important – with the omnipresent rain of the Northwest. Here are some excerpts from her book Singing to the Sound: Visions of Nature, Animals and Spirit:
“If landscape is character, then Northwesterners are most like water.”
“Our intimacy with water is crucial to understanding our Northwest character; we are more changed by the environment than it is by us.”
“When we try to spell out our “rainy day people” intimacies to outsiders, they cannot believe that we actually enjoy living for many months aswirl in great, flowing gowns of gray mist. To survive here without the daily illumination of sunlight, we must have an inner life bright with hidden worlds.”
“Northwesterners not only reckon with water shaping our physical boundaries, but also our heavens. Rain is a Northwest native.”
“Our famous rainfall is perhaps all that shelters us from the massive population and industrial exploitations of nearby California. One must be rather fluid to live underwater; one must learn to flow with a pulse greater than one’s own. A tolerance for misting gray days means an acceptance that life itself is not black and white, but in between. If the horizons outside one’s window are not sharply defined but ease into a sky intimately merged with sea and soft landscape, then perhaps shadows, both personal and collective, are not so terrifying. After all, most of the year Northwesterners can’t even see their own literal shadows cast on the ground. We live inside the rain shadow. We tolerate edges and differences in people and places perhaps because our landscape blends and blurs as it embraces.”
There was a time when I really wanted to live in the beautiful Vancouver or the Pacific Northwest. My job application went as far as Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Part of the desire is its beautiful landscape. Now, I keep asking – what landscape does Metro Manila or other “civilized” part of the country offer? what binding, life-nurturing stories do we listen to, shared around? Stories as intimate as the rain that wet our feet and warm our hearts.
Photo credit: silencedmajority