After our first morning office, I got a cup of coffee and went outside our retreat house. The morning was cold, I guess about 40 degrees. It was raining, very softly as I stood there, sipping my java, and enjoying the rain’s soothing sound. I can’t think of anything I enjoy as much as rain gently falling from the sky. Well, maybe the sound of waves pounding the beach, I think I may love that better.
One of the monks here, Brother Mark Crow, whom I took care of in the infirmary about 20 years ago, told me that he loved watching weather; it was a hobby of his from his youth. So on cloudy days, when the clouds were dark, I would take him to our inner garden and we would watch from a covered walkway, the weather. Watching the weather is a nice hobby to have, for weather is not hard to find — it’s just there, in the moment, to enjoy.
One day we were watching the weather, when what was peaceful suddenly became very stormy. The rain whipped up and danced before our eyes and we got wet since it blew over us. We both laughed and went inside. Then he asked me to go to the other side of the walkway, so we could continue to watch the storm from a drier place. So I took him through our refectory to the west side of our inner garden.
Once when I was a young monk — it would have been around 1973 — I was with two other novices down by one of our ponds, which was about a half mile from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. As we were talking, we heard the wind build up. Then as we watched, dark clouds came in very quickly, the winds got even stronger, the sky turned dark, lightning started flashing, and we were soaked by a sudden downpour, all the while we were so amazed we never moved.
After about thirty seconds it moved on. We sat in silence for a short time when one of the novices said in a dry tone, “what was that all about.”We just laughed and continued our conversation. I don’t think I have ever experienced that kind of storm since. One that came in low, quickly, with lots of fury, and then just disappeared.
Weather reminds me of my interior life. All the weather in the world, whirling around, mirrors what goes on inside me. Nice peaceful moments, sudden storms and cold snowy days, I experience all their states as they transform, but I don’t seem to change. I just observe, sometimes absorbed by my inner weather, losing the sense that I am actually an observer of it all.
When that occurs, I forget that “this too will pass.” Time passes so fast in fact, that it’s hard to keep up with it all, which is both a consolation and a cause of anxiety. At least for me, this is my understanding of our temporary status in this world. We have nothing to hold on to in this world, not even ourselves. It’s hard to grasp that we are becoming history, eventually there will be an old grave site that someone will visit and perhaps wonder, “what was this clown like.”
What effect does it have on us to possess the awareness that all will pass, or if we live long enough we will lose everything? Do we live in terror on a deep unconscious level, even if we tell ourselves we deny it?
Why do we rush around, here and there, like gerbils trapped in a cage, running on a wheel, working ourselves to exhaustion? Or worry about things that in reality are just bubbles floating for a time, only to pop and disappear?
As we watch the weather pass by, drinking our morning coffee, it’s nice to reminded of the transience of the world, of life, and its beauty.