Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thunder in the Morning

Thunder in the Morning

This morning the first sound to which I awoke was thunder; a soft rain followed. When I arose to ready myself for a trip to the hospital, I heard another sound I do not usually associate with rain. Raindrops tapping the skylight, especially soft raindrops, produce a quite pleasant sound—relaxing, rhythmic, even soothing. Thunder as well, at least distant thunder, also calms the soul like a pink promise on a blue horizon; of course if the rain drives harder and faster, or the thunder rumbles closer and louder, the dark immediacy of stormy weather deforms the placid soul into a dark and troubled Galilee upon whose windswept waters the Master sleeps.

I often hear and envision natural phenomena as living metaphors of my life. Today it was the soft rain as a calming metaphor of my tender affections for my ailing father; the approaching thunder—the dark portent that he might worsen; the pink streak piercing the dominant blue—a ray of hope upon life’s horizon that he might not lose a leg, that his artery might not burst. You see, I struggle with that malady called “the pathetic fallacy,” the false notion that “to her fair work does nature link the human soul that through me runs.”[1] Wordsworth had the same disease; ‘twas his faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes,” and that birds “hopped and played” with “pleasure.”[2] Byron, too, imagined “a pleasure in the pathless woods.”[3] But Darwin would slaughter the Romantics’ pathetic fallacy. Like a blind seer, in 1824 a young poet scarred a Somersby stone with the inscription, “Byron is dead,” and as an older man who knew Darwin well, Tennyson would write of “nature red in tooth and claw.”[4]

But I have forgotten my point—that other sound I heard this morning; not the soft raindrops, not the distant thunder, but that other sound.

I hear it on sunny days, especially at dawn, when Venus, the last goddess of velvet night, like a mother in travail, spreads her silver arms and dies, giving birth to a golden son. That’s when I hear the sound, that sound that seemed so out of place and time this morning.

Usually she darts away from portentious thunder, folds her wings to the ominous wind, and silences her song in the threatening rain. But, today, she sang. Oblivious to Wordsworth or Darwin, she sang. She sang despite the thunder, sang despite the clouds, sang despite the rain. Just outside my window in the face of the coming storm, she sang.

And as she sang, I heard yet another strange and wonderful sound, an old voice newly awakened upon the troubled waters of my soul, that said, “Why are you afraid? Peace, be still.”

[1] “Lines Written in Early Spring,” William Wordsworth
[2] “Lines Written in Early Spring,” William Wordsworth
[3] Childe Harold, Canto iv, Verse 178
[4] In Memoriam (54 - 56 fragment)

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