Walking in the Rain with Wendell Berry

Yesterday was the birthday of one of my favorite poets and writers, Wendell Berry. I think of him as the modern Thoreau. His essays, poems and stories reflect an understanding of humanity and our connectedness to each other and to nature that leaves me striving to live better. He digs deep into the soil of words, and I come away smelling the dirt and wanting to dig deeper too.

This morning while outside writing my morning pages I heard the rain approach. Within minutes I’d decided I was going for a walk in it. So I threw on a pair of old beige work shorts – the same color as my flesh as I’m not much of a sun worshipper – my black muck boots with the green soles, my green water-proof jacket and grabbed my bright red umbrella. Yes I know, a vision of loveliness.

Rain-walking gear

Rain-walking gear

At times the rain on my umbrella sounded like grease sizzling on a hot skillet, at others it was the rat-tat-tat popping of a string of firecrackers. If I listened beyond the dome around me I could imagine being in a rain forest with the falling water muffled through trees. And of course I had to make splashes! I remembered being a kid and thinking how fun it was to stand in ankle-deep puddles yet not get my feet wet. I splashed and stomped a little just to see how far the water would go, watched how it landed.

I noticed patterns. From beneath the umbrella, the beads looked perfectly round and I thought about the plastic templates we’d get in school for drawing all the different diameters of circles. Some clung to the edge of the material like crystal globes, before rolling into the next, then to the rib point where they finally fell. We’ve not had rain for four days – a whole four! – so everyone took advantage and mowed their lawns. Today swirls of grass floated in the rivulets along the side of the road. Clumps of grass formed what looked like sand bars and barrier islands that changed the water’s course. Most days the cracked asphalt just reminds me the road needs patching in some places. Today the chunks of squares, separate but still puzzled together, became alligator skin just below the water’s surface.

The colors of the flowers were brighter. The scents of dirt, freshly mowed grass and rain were refreshing.

The longer I walked the happier and less encumbered I felt. I took a picture of my boots on my feet and sent it to family. One sister couldn’t believe I didn’t have rubber duckies or something more comical on them. Next time, Lynda šŸ™‚Ā  My kids were jealous. My other sister’s first words were, “Internal and external cleansing.” Yes Trudy, both.

And I’d like to think Mr. Berry would approve and maybe even do the same thing. I take great comfort in this … because I’m thinking my neighbors are wondering who the crazy lady was this morning walking in the rain.DSC01071A Poem by Wendell Berry, taken from A Timbered Choir, The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997

I went away

only a few hundred steps

up the hill, and turned

and started home.

And then I saw

the pasture green under

the trees, the open

hillside, the little ponds,

our house, cistern,

woodshed, and barn,

the river bending in

its valley, our garden

new-planted beside it.

All around, the woods

that had been stark

in the harsh air

of March, had turned

soft with new leaves.

Birdsong had returned

to the branches:

the stream sang

in the fold of the hill.

In its time and great patience

beauty had come upon us,

greater than I had imagined.


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12 Responses to Walking in the Rain with Wendell Berry

  1. Rosemary C. Gray says:

    This is beautiful. As a fellow rain-walker, I relate to the feelings or relating to nature and renewal that walking in the rain gives. You’re braver than I with your skin-colored shorts. I can hear your neighbors now….”Earl, my eye sight isn’t what it used to be, but is that Kim walking naked in the rain with just black boots and a red umbrella?”

    • Thanks Rosemary. Hadn’t thought about that walking naked thing! lol Did see a couple of older gents in rocking chairs on a porch and they weren’t quite sure about waving back at me šŸ™‚ Hope you’re enjoying the rain too.
      ~ Kim

  2. Jayne says:

    Enjoyed reading this! So descriptive that I felt I was splashing along right beside you.

  3. Claire says:

    Kim – OMGoodness – you’ve taken us on another journey with you, experiencing all the sights, colors, scents and textures, as if we were there. But of course we were, because you shared!
    And the icing on the cake was Wendell Berry who inspired you and no doubt walked beside you.
    As always – thank you!!!

  4. I did the same thing during a rain storm last year. Ever since, when it rains, I get this urge.

    A storm struck while we were on the beach a few weeks ago. My husband couldn’t understand why I wasn’t racing for cover. It was gusty and pouring, so I did head indoors, but laughing and tilting my head up toward the sky the whole way. My explanation to him? “I’m at the beach. I don’t have to go to a meeting and worry about hair and make-up. This is how I prefer it and would do so more often if the world didn’t require me to look polished.”

    Splash ON!

    • Barbara I would have been right there with you! Once I sat on a beach watching a storm roll in across the water. I could see the clouds swirling and changing colors and directly below, the waves would start churning. It was the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen. Captivated!

      Splash on to you too!
      ~ Kim

  5. Harriett Diller says:

    Hi, Kim,

    I enjoyed reading about your walk in the rain. I am planning to walk in the rain up here in PA today. I love Wendell Berry, too. And do you like his poem, “The Peace of Wild Things”?


    • Thanks Harriett. I hope you got your walk in as well. I thought of you when I realized it was his birthday, I knew he’s a favorite of yours too. I’d not read The Peace of Wild Things, but I looked for it and think it will be hanging on my office wall soon. What a lovely, comforting poem. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      ~ Kim

  6. Wonderful post, Kim!

    For my granddaughter Jemma’s 3rd birthday, I bought her a pair of rain boots–tan with hearts of various colors all over. They are her puddle boots. Every time it rains, she heads out doors to splash. They have been her favorite footwear this summer!

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