Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Giant Sand Where God Lives

The mushrooms had just started to kick in when I saw the storm roll down the canyon toward me.

I'd driven out to the Saguaro National Monument (now a National Forest) in my first car, a sand colored Volkswagen Rabbit I'd named "Shadrach,"expressly for the purpose of tripping out in the desert. Out here, surrounded by the petrichor and the smell of the creosote and the slightly alien looking giant saguaro reaching their huge arms in supplication to a darkening sky, I felt like I would have the kind of experience I'd been looking for. I'd often said to my friends who asked me why I still lived in Tucson, long after most of them had moved to bigger cities and better things, that "God lives in the desert." Just ask the Jews. Just ask the Muslims.

The line of rain, a grey haze billowing like a sheet across the sky, seemed to move slowly. You always think you have plenty of time. The closer the rain comes, the tougher it is to tell just how far away it is. The hard dividing line between rain and sand becomes fuzzy and indistinct.

There was a sound, like a few people sucking in air between their teeth, moving my way. A few people became a group. A group became a crowd, then a mob, now all shushing each other, running toward me. A few drops plashed my face, and then it was upon me. Hammers, buckets of water, soaking my clothes, my skin, the earth. I felt the strong urge to get to higher ground. The part of my brain concerned with bodily safety was rapidly shutting down, but it must have managed to remember that flash floods were a real concern in this area, and was able to send up a subconscious signal flare through the star bursts that were starting to explode in my frontal lobes. I clambered up a hill, over shifting shale and dirt that was rapidly churning into mud beneath the onslaught, until I found an outcropping of rock under which I sheltered, shivering in my wet clothes.

It dumped. It plummeted. The heavens shouted rain down on the desert until the visibility decreased to only the few feet just beyond my primitive shelter. Thunder clapped and boomed, but I remained entirely unconcerned about my safety. Wind hooted and moaned, driving rain into the mouth of my little makeshift cave. I laughed.

Then, it was over.

The sun came out almost immediately on a disheveled and ravished scene, I stepped from the cave, dripping and cold, and felt my skin tighten as I started to dry. I stood on a rock, my heart quiet and full of light, and looked down into the valley below where my car was parked. The air still glistened with moisture, and the low sun made a rainbow from where I stood right down to the car. I swear. Mushrooms or no, that happened.

The same kind of ramshackle grandeur, the aloneness that isn't lonely, fills this song.The tension that mounts as the storm rises, the sun that opens up on the hook between the verses. This isn't the song of the storm, but what comes after, the still, small voice that speaks in the quiet when the storm has passed. Imagine the voices stuttering to a halt in your head, imagine the sun coming out, imagine the darkness that is coming, has gone, is still to come.

Howe Gelb - "This Purple Child"


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