Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Raindrops and Hyacinth

Well, it seems that the old saying is come true. April showers we have had aplenty, and the spring flowers begin to emerge. The robins are back, singing in the tree branches and on telephone poles; t-shirts and pastel church dresses are becoming less and less endangered every day; the grass is rising greener, and the wind is blowing gentle from the East. Spring, my friends, is upon us. But, as mentioned before, that does tend to bring with it the occasional cloudburst - as was the case yesterday.

The day before, Sunday, was absolutely beautiful - but Monday dawned cold and gray. Everything outside was wet when the apartment woke, as though it had been raining earlier, and before too long it began to rain again. With all the anxiety and pressure of finals and the emotional ache of approaching partings weighing heavy to begin with, it did not improve my morale to look outside and see the dark, rain-laden clouds hanging low over the valley. The morning didn't change anything, filled only with the tense silence that accompanies rigorous study.

Later that afternoon, I hurried up to campus to take one of my finals and found myself wanting for cheer, feeling alone and troubled by many things. Feeling the need to see something beautiful so as to improve my thoughts, I went and stood for a time in front of the fine arts center, allowing myself to be rained on and looking at the blossoming tulips that grew there.

I remembered the way in which a friend had put things into perspective for me. The end of finals was right around the corner - and really, with all the hard study and reading I had done for my classes throughout the semester, I was more prepared than I thought I was. I would soon go home and have the best of summers, filled with family and friends, sunshine and sprinklers, petunias and popcicles, hard work and hard play... Then we would return to BYU and have a semester just as wonderful as this one has been. And after that, we would go to Jerusalem and have the experience of a lifetime... How blessed I have been! And how blessed I shall be! To think of it that way, I could not keep myself from being comforted.

As I came away from the tulip bed, I had a thought. It was spontaneous and out of character, but I acted on it anyway - I took off one of my shoes and tested the ground. It wasn't all that cold. The earth and pavement were warm, and the rainwater was fresh and cool. So without further ado, I removed my other shoe and set off for the JKB walking barefoot in the rain.

It was good and wholesome and healing - like new rain should be. The cool water splashed over my feet, and the still-falling raindrops delicately annointed my uncovered face and hands. The whole world was filled with the smell of moist earth and growing grass and - as I bent over one of the flower planters - the sweet perfume of fresh hyacinth. Every hue was brightened by the rain, turned by the storm's magical touch into the world's finest treasures - emerald grasses, jewel-bright tulips and pansies and hyacinth, ghost-white flowering tree buds, and paving stones of shining silver. And there I was in the middle of it - bare headed and shoeless and smiling.

Yes, it was probably not wise. Yes, I got funny looks - more than my usual share. Yes, I could have caught my death out there, and yes, the bottoms of my pants got soaked, and yes, my feet were nearly numb by the time I got to the appropriate building.

I don't care.

For a few moments, I was able to leave behind everything that was weighing me down. I was able to remove the intervening layers and make myself a part of the magic that was nature. I was at one with the puddles, the storm, the growth and newness and life all around me. It is as Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

"To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most person do not see the sun. At least, they have a   very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child.... To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney, comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself."

This time of year is hard and crazy, especially for students. My encouragement for the day is this: find a little nature every day. A flower, a bird song, a vernal breeze... whatever you will. As Emerson so perfectly put it, come away from the craft and din for a few moments, let nature work its magic upon you, and allow yourself to become a little more human. You don't have to go any futher than outside your door - no long hikes or retreats required - but even so, in nature's eternal calm, you will find yourself. Go see the sun, feel the moving wind, or walk barefoot in the rain - and let yourself become whole.

Faithfully yours - 'til next time...  

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