Feeling the Rain

When I was in college, I read Rod McKuen’s poetry, and I think I even had an album of him reading his poetry, in his rich, quiet voice — therapeutic or creepy, depending on your state of mind. (Sample here: Do You Like the Rain?).

A line from one of his poems — and I don’t know which one, as I lost or gave away the books and album long ago, and even an online search was fruitless — has always stayed with me. In fact, I have repeated it to myself probably on average once a week for more than 30 years. It’s this one:

“You could feel the rain before it came, the signals were that good.”

It’s true: you can feel the rain, and smell it, and also sometimes see it, like a mirage, before it really starts obviously raining. I think of this line when I see a sort of static in the air in front of me and know that rain is imminent.

And it also comes to mind in many contexts not related to rain at all; in fact, I recall it whenever I sense that something is just beginning to occur, or is about to happen, without knowing why, without understanding in my mind what my senses are telling me but trusting them anyway.  This occurs in what we commonly call the natural world, perhaps when I feel that a chipmunk or vole is nearby, or that a branch is about to fall, and some part of me must have heard it or seen it or felt it,  or felt the air around me move differently, but I have not really registered seeing or hearing it — I have felt only a certain presence.  Or when I’m listening to a friend and know what will be said before it’s said, not because I’ve heard her say it before, or even expect it, but because I hear it faintly in my head or heart, or see it lodged or flowing in her somewhere.

I don’t know how it works, though I think it’s what intuition is mostly about, when the thinking brain doesn’t register phenomena but the body or heart or mind or soul does, or perhaps some combination of these with our life’s store of experience and with an openness of spirit.

Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence (1997) is about this idea that victims of violence usually feel a sense of fear before any threat or violence takes place, but because it doesn’t “make sense” to them, they often discount and ignore it.  But in addition to alerting us to how to physically survive, I think that these signals, this “feeling the rain,” are indicative of a shared aliveness, common to us and other beings, and I think that they not only help us to survive but connect us in unspeakable ways.

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