It’s raining as I write this—a thorough, soaking rain. The desert earth is having a difficult time absorbing it all, but we need every drop to help offset the drought.
If it seems like water is a constant theme for those of us who live in the desert…it is. I’m always aware of when rain is falling, or the skies look like they might let loose with thunderstorms at any minute. It probably comes from living where water is a scarce commodity. It’s an awareness that I grew up with, and I’ve taken it with me, wherever I have lived.
I can still easily recall standing in the woods while on retreat in late autumn, along the Merrimack River in northern Massachusetts. I was standing outside, under an umbrella, listening to the rain fall on a thick carpet of brightly-colored leaves. The sound of the rain, on the leaves and on my umbrella, has stayed with me, even 20 years later.
I also realize that many of my photographs have to do with rain. Raindrops on cactus spines and grass blades. Rain misting over mountains. Channels that rain has carved through the earth, or wave patterns that it has left behind. The absence of rain also figures in my photographs. Cracked, dry earth, thirsting for rain. Fantastic shapes woven of juniper tree skeletons. Fields of brown grass gone to seed.
We all have images that figure in our lives in important ways. Rain in the desert is an image that speaks to me. It speaks to me of the spiritual life as well as of nature. Sometimes I am the parched earth, waiting for rain from God. Sometimes I am one of those raindrops, joyfully bouncing along the sidewalk and then sinking into the earth alongside other drops. Mostly I am myself, listening to the rain fall, wondering what parts of my body and my soul need to soak up this precious moisture.
What is an enduring image in your life? Where do you find yourself in the image? What spiritual meaning does it have in your life?