It doesn’t rain very often here in the Bay Area. At least not in September. There are usually one to two rainy months per year – January and/or February. But these seem to pass by without much fanfare, in my experience. Yesterday morning I was woken by the flicker of lightning – I saw it as just a momentary flash of light through my eyelids – followed by a long pause, and then a deep, billowing rumble of thunder. I grew up in the Midwest, where summer thunderstorms were commonplace. At a young age, I learned to count the seconds between the lightning flash and the sound of the thunder, as a way to measure how far away the storm was. I remember standing at my front door, behind the screen of the storm door, looking at the sky with fierce concentration, and wondering whether the storm was headed toward or away from us.

Now I sit here and listen to the sound of rain falling. I’ve turned off the music I had playing in the background all day. And I notice the steady rhythm of the rain. I wonder why it is that I notice it today. Then I remember that it’s so rare to hear anything like it from my open windows in Menlo Park. I may hear a bird, or the squawk of a squirrel defending its nest, but mostly it’s just silence. I notice the visual images of sky and trees outside my window. I notice the wash of colors – like a slideshow with perfectly invisible transitions – that characterize the summer sunsets. But I never really listen.

Maybe my ears are more sensitized after yesterday’s class. It definitely was a total body experience. I wanted nothing more than to sleep in today, but I found myself getting out of bed and into my car and driving home from San Francisco, then walking to the Farmer’s Market (before the rain), preparing a homemade salsa, and making chicken curry with vegetables (okra, baby kohlrabi, watermelon radishes) before sitting down again.

Tonight I notice that the rain starts sometimes suddenly, and we notice only its constancy – like a drone. We can’t recall how it sounded at the first drop. And then, also without warning, it seems to fade – or decrescendo – into silence. I strain to hear it, but there’s only the sound of nothing. I begin to appreciate the silence, but only in my attempt to listen to something.

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