When the rain falls

by | Jun 4, 2020 | Seasons Newsletter | 15 comments

 

As the rain fell steadily, soaking the earth, I watched the season tilt towards winter and thought of Irihapeti.

 

Twenty years earlier, we sat in her Wellington garden, talking of grief and how it so often accompanies the midlife crossing. 

She was sharing her story for my book Growing into Wisdom. The rain was falling steadily, just as it is while I write now.

 

Irihapeti paused. She wondered aloud what sound the plants might be making as they soaked up the long-overdue moisture. We sat silently, listening, before resuming our conversation.

Irihapeti’s ancestors had trod the very land where she now had her home. The earth felt their footprints. The site of her garden was once part of the tribal birding area. The same earth opened to receive her breast, that was buried after surgery during a gathering with friends.

 

Why now?

 

Why would her words from two decades ago be coming through so strongly now, in a different time and place? Who can fathom the mystery of the voices that reach us across time? — these gems and threads that have lain so long in hidden pockets, only to be discovered when your hand chances to hover over some forgotten place, to pull out threads and coloured handkerchiefs like magician’s silk?

Remembering her words gives me a measure of time, and a measure of growth. Twenty years ago they carried an edge of a new idea. Listening to the sound of the plants drinking up rain wasn’t something I had thought of before. I liked the sound of it. I was intrigued. Yet, despite this excitement, on a subtle level, I felt a sense of separation.

 

Going further, claiming more

 

While my connection with nature was strong, it didn’t go quite so far. I ascribed the experience of listening to plants to something only Māori knew about.

And yet in subsequent decades I too have gained access to the inner voice of plants, water, air and earth. It began with remembering the many hours I spent as a child sitting on a rock beside the Waionganaiti river that flowed down from Mt Taranaki. I was forgetting how tuned in I was to its many voices: the ripples, the pause, the indrawn breath, the rush of a new flow and the stony rattle that followed the rush.

By failing to embrace my own experience, I was missing a meeting point between Irihapeti and myself, a meeting point that would have happened had I remembered and shared my river experience, feeling it as part of me.

Eventually, by claiming that intuitive connection with nature, I was able to develop it further, until it now feels completely natural to talk to trees, sense into their rising or falling sap, and ask plants for permission to take a leaf.

 

You can do this too

In my recent Sacred Earth course, I saw how others can learn this. One person said, ‘I feel I have awakened to a spontaneous relationship where my inner world and my outer world have melded as one. Nature and I are one.’

And another ‘I have sensed that a beautiful Ti Kouka at our gate is a guardian and protects our home. Previously I was not aware of guardians in nature, as such.’

Another spoke of ‘feeling a deep connection to the plants as ancestors when I held a kawakawa leaf in my hand and felt its veins as my veins.’

When the earth needs to drink

 

During the months of drought in Auckland, Northland and other parts of the country, the fine weather at first seemed a benevolent gift. It helped draw people out to cycle and walk during the Lockdown.

But there came a point where the earth was suffering from too much dryness. I felt it, and conserved water. I longed for rain on behalf of the earth, even as I enjoyed the sunny days for myself.

If the earth suffers, we suffer.

Science has now alerted us to a hard truth: the link between our degradation of the earth and the emergence of lethal viruses.

We are not separate.
The earth is our body.

When we degrade the earth, our immune system suffers and pathogens thrive.

My body, the earth, is drinking deeply. 

And so I welcome the rain. I give thanks.

What I know is: that the closer we move towards the indigenous wisdom that lies within the ancestry of us all, and is kept alive by native cultures today, the sooner we will embrace a pathway to healing. For Irihapeti, that ancestry was alive and accessible; for many Pākehā, it takes some unearthing to find the roots. But it can be done.

I feel this as an urgent task. Do you?

I give thanks to the rain, and what it brought with it today.

I would welcome your thoughts.

Blessings,

Juliet

 

You may read Irihapeti’s story in Growing into Wisdom, Chapter 7.

 

15 Comments

  1. Jessica Powers

    I’ve done this thing where I will only spit onto soil if at all possible. And I thank the earth for allowing that. I’m sure I came across it at a Women of Wisdom conference in Seattle. My natural state is to talk to trees and plants, which was easier when I was in my birthplace of Washington State and has been an ongoing new relationship here in NZ since permanently coming here 11 years ago. The plants in my garden though, I love the conversation with them and the way that it changes much of the lovely and aware approaches to picking and using plants, I mean, I feel like I totally just get more material from my growing partners!

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Jessica, thank you so much for sharing your conversations with plants and respect for the earth. I’m not sure if I’ve understood your first sentence correctly. Do you mean you will avoid spitting onto soil if at all possible? How wonderful that you’ve built a relationship with this land over the past 11 years, especially with your garden.

      Reply
  2. Jessica Powers

    Hey Juliet, yes, it’s been a bit of work, and I still miss the ease of the Pacific Northwest (and my mountains, sniff). As for the spitting – I try to never spit on cement! The idea of ashes to ashes falls a bit short when you are releasing part of your body into concrete.

    Reply
  3. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – I’m aware … but have yet to fully immerse myself … I certainly can feel the logic in your words as we are desperate for rain … it’s been lovely having the sun – but there comes a time when England with its seasons is at its best … cooler today – whether we get much rain we shall see. Take care as world moves towards healing – I sincerely hope … all the best – Hilary

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      I hope the rain falls soon for you Hilary.

      Reply
  4. Denise Poyner

    Thank you for the wonderful experience you offer in this post. I felt relief when it rained. I thought the earth could start to get back to square with itself.

    I felt existential relief as water is of course part of our survival needs. The dryness of the land and the dryness in my experience of the lockdown (meaning, I had a lot of bother working from home, and not being able to toodle about as I do seeing my friends and enjoying my usual activities) is and was difficult.

    I also feel a lot of unexplained pain. We have endured a lot this year so far. We are all shifted and changed just like the earth when it rains. For me I sense a need to process renewal; to start over; throw a few things out that I no longer find useful and rebuild something existentially more secure as I get older.

    Your book Growing into Wisdom sounds like something I would like to read. Thank you for that offering.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Denise. It has been a year of upheaval certainly. You express it so well: ‘We are all shifted and changed just like the earth when it rains.’ This feels so true. I wish you well with renewal.
      PS Growing into Wisdom is a very nourishing book, good for the soul, and a guide for late midlife through to 60 or even beyond.

      Reply
  5. Teresa

    My partner Damon and I finally purchased our dream property 2 1/2 years ago – a couple of cabins, an extensive food forest, a clear, rocky creek and little paradise of native bush. We had given up the idea of owning our own home a while back as we couldn’t get mortgage approved despite having large deposit and both in well-paid jobs.
    My partner’s a builder and was asked by a friend to do a property inspection here as he was thinking of purchasing. Damon immediately fell in love with the property, he felt it humming with a palpable magic, and fortunately his friend did not want to purchase it. I viewed the property and knew he was right – I could feel the magic too. Everything unexpectedly fell in to place in a matter of days and it was ours. We felt the property had chosen us, and there was little we could do to stop it happening.
    The place hadn’t been lived in and was wildly overgrown. We started clearing the paths and finding the edges of the gardens, then had to attend a project away for a few days. When back we both took off in separate directions to explore our little paradise we had missed. I sat in the forest overlooking the creek. There was a weird energy. It felt like the forest wasn’t sure if it wanted me to be there. I was uncertain if i belonged. I met Damon inside and he said “the energy is weird, it’s like the garden wont look me in the eye” – he felt it too! I spoke to a local Maori Rongoa Medicine woman about it and she said the garden had been gossiping about us and what we were going to do to the place while we’d been away and that’s why it was averting it’s gaze when we got back!
    The largest tree on our property is a huge Kanuka overlooking our forest and creek, with her protuding roots making steps and seats. She told me her name is MamaKanuka and I often sit at her base and she shows me visions of how the forest is all interconnected and even about my own life. I learn my deepest wisdoms from what the plants and birds here tell me and I’m so grateful this place chose us.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Teresa, thank you so much for this beautiful and interesting story. I feel nourished by reading it. I hope all the trees have been reassured by your good intentions.

      Reply
  6. Cecily Sheehy

    I love your reflection Juliet, and thankfulness for some rain.
    Like you, I have loved the sunny days of lockdown, but have longed for rain to water the earth too.
    Thank you for bringing our attention to our wonderful…..but suffering earth.
    I cry for our Mother, the beautiful Blue-Green planet, and appreciate her beauty.
    May we all walk lightly upon her surface.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Cecily, that’s lovely. Your last line makes me think of Thich Naht Hahn saying we we should walk as if our feet are kissing the earth.

      Reply
  7. Grace Catley

    As I sit at my laptop working I am reflecting on your words and our disconnect from the land that holds us and nurtures us. As a child, running with the icy southern wind howling through the macrocarpa trees, I felt one with nature. As an teen, tramping in our native forests, I felt drenched in the smell and quiet of those places. Now as an older woman I call on my earlier life when I go to our local park. I wrap my arms around the old pines and rest my cheek on rough bark. It is a kind of coming home.

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      Grace, thank you for these poetic and evocative words. I can feel the sense of closeness to nature in each of the three life phases that you describe. I too like to wrap my arms around my special trees and rest my cheek against their bark. I know exactly what you mean by ‘a kind of coming home’.

      Reply
  8. Gerry Klassen

    Like the rain your newsletter was again clear and refreshing. Loved the story line. Thank you dear friend, many blessings, Gerry

    Reply
    • Juliet Batten

      What a beautiful comment! Thank you so much Gerry.

      Reply

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