POSTCARD#76: Delhi: Standing outside in the rain that’s just beginning, bare feet in rubber slippers. Can’t see clearly in this indistinct light, eyes still dazzled by the intense blue sky and sunshine of the hot season now coming to an end. I look up at the pearly grey rain clouds, water vapour becomes form in the vaulted dome of sky. A sprinkle of moisture on my glasses, hair damp, arms feel cool. Wet hands, finger moves to lips, the taste of it… and the smell of rain, a wonderful fragrance of earthy greenness. A mist of invisible particles in the air around the tall trees here, near to the park, where we are.
The smell of rain reminds me of something, triggers a memory and the mind scans through the files containing everything that’s known – looking for a reference, a precedent for this experience. Nothing found… a proximity search, closest value, nearest match? Traces of a familiarity created by this fragrance but connected with what? No associated recall, I have sensory input but no source memory… only the physiological function of the sense of smell itself, inherited from ancestors with a developed awareness of the approach of rain. Who’s to say? A prehistoric being may have been standing here, in this exact place where I am now, sniffing the air as I’m doing now, and conscious experience of the scent of rain would be no different for that human being then as it is for me now – except that this kind of thing is not in my vocabulary… only the nostalgia of smell.
Take shelter inside the house, doors open as wide as they’ll go. Listening to the rain falling on the tiles outside, it has the quality of a whisper. An immeasurable mass of individual raindrops merged together in waves of tiny collisions, thousand and thousands of small finger snapping sounds, high frequency applause. The generosity of rain – all these other rain drops still on the way down, elongated streaks of stretched-out water pulled by gravity, crashing into the earth – the miracle of it takes my breath away.
A crow flies in from the northside, craw… craw…. Flying in the rain. The sound gets louder and louder as the crow flies over the house, craw… craw…. At the patio doors I hear it pass above me and on through the rain in a southerly direction, over the park, craw… craw…. The calls are further away, echo off the walls of tall buildings on the far side of the park. Fainter and fainter until there’s no sound at all – only the act of listening. Awareness poised in a huge silence that feels like it’s about to become something else… a hesitation before the next thought arises. Tiny sounds of birdsong far away, and incidental thinking episodes float through. Awareness moves through thoughts like a bird flutters through the branches of a tree – the interval between thoughts, the space that happens before the next thought arises, and the space between moments.
Awareness of thought and the empty space surrounding it. Awareness of one object that includes awareness of another – and the awareness that knows this. Contemplate the state of the body and contemplate the mind contemplating that and everything that led to this….
‘Alert to the needs of the journey, those on the path of awareness, like swans, glide on, leaving behind their former resting places.’ [Dhammapada verse 91]