Finally, it rained. After a long six-month dry spell, all last weekend the clouds poured out their bounty, and the creeks, streams and rivers received it, so grateful they began to sing their old songs.
In California we have a wet-and-dry cycle every year. The rains stop sometime in spring and don’t usually begin again until fall or even early winter. So sunny California has a downside, typically going six months or more without life-giving water from the skies.
Like all Mediterranean climates, which occur on the western edges of every continent in the horse latitudes, a subtropical ridge makes for hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
During the dry season dramatic things happen – drought, wildfires, the death of entire forests from bark beetles. Creeks, streams and rivers diminish or disappear. Waterfalls stop falling. Trees lean over, weak and thirsty, beseeching non-existent clouds for a drink. The chaparral turns from a healthy, gorgeous green to a sere, parched brown. Flowers wilt. Animals move toward the remaining water or perish. The dirt dries into dust. In the heat and the relentless sun, everyone watches the blue heavens, wishing, praying, waiting.
The coming of the rains changes all that. Dusty trees stand up straight and turn their leaves and needles skyward, newly clean, happy and sated. Fire season ends, everyone hopes. Optimistic little green shoots poke up out of the ground. Frogs croak to celebrate their miraculous re-emergence, reborn from the soil itself after their long dormancy. People rejoice, some of the more free spirits among them dancing and singing in the rain, wet and happy. A collective sigh of joy and relief seems to rise from the flora, the fauna and the farmers, too.
As the Baha’i writings express it, when it rains every living being seems to want to thank “… Thy streaming clouds of bounty raining down gifts upon the essences of all created things …” – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 5.
In ancient and indigenous cultures, rainmaking rituals prayed and danced for rain, then celebrated it when it came, thanking the Creator for His bounty. Few people participate in those rituals any longer, but the next time it rains, you may want to find a way to express your gratitude for the liquid that gives us life.
It struck me this weekend, as I walked in God’s glorious gift of rain, that the tremendous life-giving bounty of falling water symbolizes something even greater:
Now are clouds of bounty raining down and the gifts of the loving Lord are clearly manifest; for both the seen and the unseen worlds have been illumined, and the Promised One hath come to earth and the beauty of the Adored One hath shone forth.
Salutations, blessings, and welcome to that Universal Reality, that Perfect Word, that Manifest Book, that Splendour which hath dawned in the highest heaven, that Guide of all nations, that Light of the world – the billowing ocean of Whose abounding grace hath flooded all creation, in such wise that the waves thereof have cast upon the sands of this visible world their shining pearls. – Ibid., pp. 38-39.
The Baha’i teachings liken rain to revelation:
Among the bounties of God is revelation. Hence revelation is progressive and continuous. It never ceases. It is necessary that the reality of Divinity with all its perfections and attributes should become resplendent in the human world. The reality of Divinity is like an endless ocean. Revelation may be likened to the rain. Can you imagine the cessation of rain? Ever on the face of the earth somewhere rain is pouring down. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 378.
Does it only rain once, and then never again? No – even after a long drought, the Earth receives the continuous bounty of rain, just as humanity receives the continuous bounty of revelation:
… we must follow and adore the virtues revealed in the Messengers of God – whether in Abraham, Moses, Jesus or other Prophets – but we must not adhere to and adore the lamp. We must recognize the sun, no matter from what dawning point it may shine forth, be it Mosaic, Abrahamic or any personal point of orientation whatever, for we are lovers of sunlight and not of orientation. We are lovers of illumination and not of lamps and candles. We are seekers for water, no matter from what rock it may gush forth. We are in need of fruit in whatsoever orchard it may be ripened. We long for rain; it matters not which cloud pours it down. – Ibid., pp. 152-153.
It matters not which cloud pours the rain down, Abdu’l-Baha said, obviously suggesting that the soul’s thirst can be equally slaked with the water of life from all revelations:
God’s grace is like the rain that cometh down from heaven: the water is not bounded by the limitations of form, yet on whatever place it poureth down, it taketh on limitations – dimensions, appearance, shape – according to the characteristics of that place. In a square pool, the water, previously unconfined, becometh a square; in a six-sided pool it becometh a hexagon, in an eight-sided pool an octagon, and so forth. The rain itself hath no geometry, no limits, no form, but it taketh on one form or another, according to the restrictions of its vessel. In the same way, the Holy Essence of the Lord God is boundless, immeasurable, but His graces and splendours become finite in the creatures, because of their limitations … – Ibid., p. 161.
So the next time it rains, go outside and get wet. Like a child does, splash in a puddle just for the fun of it. Turn your face upward toward the sky and let the righteous rain wash your fears away. Be joyous, happy, and hydrated. Inhale the exhaled breath of the Earth as it receives the divine outpouring of delicious water. Think about what the Creator’s rain means for your soul, and delight in the downpour of that spiritual deluge.