drivewayThere is something magical about the experience of walking in the dark after a torrential rain, surrounded by nature, with the sounds of wind and crickets, the smell of earth and grass and wet foliage, the sight of trees covered with droplets of water shining in the streetlight, the taste of wild berries, the startling touch of cold water dripping from the trees. I’m not sure if it’s possible to convey the extraordinary feeling these sensations evoke with the blunt and clumsy tools of human language.

Monday afternoon and evening it rained heavily where we live, a rain we desperately needed. Our usual pre-dusk stroll with Chelsea was deferred until the rain finally let up, well after dark. We live in an exurban community with about thirty large lots, with half of each lot restricted by conservation authority regulations (in contiguous stretches) due to the uniqueness of the ecosystem, and hence untouched and untouchable by development of any kind. As a result we feel we ‘share’ the neighbourhood with the abundant wildlife that we encounter daily.

streetI’m a poor photographer, I’m afraid, especially at night, and cannot capture the evanescent mist, nor the dazzling rich  green colour of the trees in the lamplight, nor the stark contrast between the green moonlit branches and the blackness of those in shade, nor the sublime crystalline beauty of the reflection of water-droplets on leaves. You will have to conjure these up from your own imagination.

In the falling dark, the first thing you notice is the dazzling chlorophyll-enriched green, a colour you only see after a heavy rain. Then, near midnight, by lamplight, the foliage takes on a phosphorescent lime hue with the shimmer and sparkle of raindrops beaded on the leaves, and clinging to the needles of evergreens. In the streetlight and moonlight far above, the conifers become horizontal streaks of contrasting black and emerald, heavily striated by the shadows of the branches above. Black, green and white are the only colours, but there is a vast profusion of rich tones of each. The silhouettes of trees, some thirty feet tall, wave in the gusts of the post-storm wind, and in the branches you can see and hear the occasional rustle of birds. There are puddles in the street and driveways, reflecting the lamplight and the moon’s haze, rippled by the wind. The rain has brought out a family of white-tailed rabbits, scurrying from groundcover to groundcover, and bullfrogs, and in the gully a single young deer. And quietly and gracefully overhead, the occasional tiny bat swoops in search of insects.

There are only three sounds: The wind gusting through the trees, the crickets, and your footsteps. The rest is silence, so deep that the world beyond seems to have dropped from existence.

treehaloIt’s no wonder that dogs love to walk in, and after, the rain. The wind and the rain have drawn out a profusion of scents. Earth, pinecones, evergreen needles, midsummer florals, acid fruits. The gusts of wind accentuate the sheer variety of smells, dozens of them layered on top of each other, crisp and musty, barely distinguishable by our feeble noses. Chelsea is in sensory heaven.

Among the scents is the tart whisper of wild raspberries growing by the ponds, and though you can’t see them you can almost taste them. And you can almost taste the earth, the bite of bark and cone and leaf and needle that overwhelms the senses.

The wind swirls around you, bracing but not cold, and then when you pass under trees or brush against them you feel the icy touch of newfallen rain.

Now in the dark your imagination springs to life. Beneath one large lamplit tree, its leaves so thick that they provide almost full shelter even in heavy rain, you envision a young couple sitting, crosslegged, facing each other, talking in hushed tones, excited, the light from above diffused by leaves and branches so that the young faces are streaked with shadows. Their eyes seem almost to shine in the dark. They have two books, open, dog-eared, beside them. You can hear the second movement of Ravel’s Concerto in G, the first part, the sad, hesitant piano solo and then the rhapsodic flute coming in, two voices in quiet but animated conversation, like the conversation of the young couple. They have this remarkable music playing on a portable stereo under the tree.

coupleThis is where poetry and music come from. In this enthralling darkness, this swirl of sensation and emotion, lies the opening of possibility, the awakening of ideas and dreams and promises that free us from the suffocating grind of our daily existence, the homogeneity of our frightened and horrible culture, that crushes the life out of us, dessicates our individuality, leaves only dull automatons who do what we are told, do what we must, never again daring to dream that we could be anything, that we could and can do anything, we could build a world, a life, a community as different from the suffocating blandness and uniformity of most human existance as life is different from death, and rain from dust.

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3 Responses to RHAPSODY

  1. carlos says:

    a beautiful post, dave. bravísimo.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks. From you, that’s a very special compliment. BTW, loved your ‘fair and balanced’ rant.

  3. Fiona says:

    The Dilbert Factory continues to turn them out on the assembly line. The juggernaut perhaps cannot be stopped but it’s a good thing that you are there to record the wonders. Maybe some day, somewhere, a hapless Dilbert will be able to read about plants and get inspired, kind of like how they showed those nature movies to the people in Soylent Green when they elected to commit voluntary suicide. My sarcasm knows no bounds but I do appreciate it when someone else appreciates the wonders of nature.

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