Lessons From Nature: A Hike in the Rain

By John Rocheleau
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The clouds were low; silver-grey with blushes of violet to the west, and an intense blue-grey to the east. It was 1994, and spring was about to bless us with some needed rain.

“The garden will love it,” Rosemarie said. I agreed, though not with the same hard-won conviction as my Wife’s, after all, it was Rosemarie who created our garden and it was she who mainly toiled in it.

We had a large garden (and still do) filled with plenty of delicious raspberries, gooseberries, currants of all sorts, and most of the vegetables we needed for the year ahead. For Rosemarie, the garden was her labor of love; her way of connecting to life at its purest, and to who she is at heart.

It was a quiet day, and every living thing seemed to be in their own separate world, including us. I was taking a break from a new painting I was working on, Rosemarie was finishing some planting, and the ravens were dive-bombing Jones, our black cat.

Critter Dramas

Watching how Jones responded was comical. He was convinced that he was the predator and they were the prey. But the Ravens were fearless; they held to a different set of definitions. To them, the world was theirs and so they attacked and claimed space. Our poor little Jones became short-circuited by the gap between his instincts and the situation. He sat hugging the ground for a while, frozen in fear, his jaw quivering as he tried to make threatening noises. He then ran off, ears flattened tight back, eyes big like saucers.

It was intriguing to watch the dramas being played out on our small patch of earth in the middle of town. All of the creatures that graced our property had their own stories, that through time and observation they shared with us.

There was the Raven with the bad leg and injured wing, and the Red-Winged Blackbird with the bald head; the only one that remained in the area from the fifty or so that over-wintered with us. Was he an outcast? The odd dog wanders over to say hello, or to Rosemarie’s dismay, to relieve himself in the loose black soil.

Our beautiful one third of an acre in the heart of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley became for us, a crucible, a microcosm of nature’s cycles and dramas. We chased the dogs, the dogs chased the cats, the cats chased just about anything smaller than themselves, and of course the ravens chased Jones. All of them playing between fear and desire.

The Hike

“Would you like to go for a hike?” Rosemarie asked between streams of quiet thought. “Sure, I guess I can finish the painting later. It might rain though” I said. We had had our share of relationship difficulties in the recent past and we were still feeling the weight of circumstances. Did I really want to go for a hike in the bush, in the rain? “That’s okay; it’s good for the garden, so it might be good for us as well,” Rosemarie answered, sensing what I might be feeling.

A few moments later then, the sky a bit darker with vertical columns of misty grey; rain in the distance, we set out in our camper van. We called her Betsy.

Betsy had been our vehicle on many an adventure. Settling into her seats was like coming home to the magic of ourselves. All of our worries and frustrations would dissolve into her, as we focused through her windshield on where we were, and where we envisioned going.

After a brief discussion of where to hike, we decided on Okanagan Mountain Park; a large wild area at the edge of town. There, steep trails lead to beautiful high places where the breeze is always fresh, the grass is always golden, and the lake below is always an iridescent blue shimmer.

On this day though we would not hike to those highest places. Our goal was only about 40 minutes uphill. I wanted to show Rosemarie the eagle’s nest I had discovered the previous week.

Rain was falling gently when we arrived, and the few people that were in the area were leaving. Donning an old oiled canvas hat to keep the rain off my head and glasses, we began hiking up to the point where we could make our own way off-trail to the nest. The rain made the ground less stable and the rocks slippery as if coated with a thin film of oil.

Being careful not to destroy the lichen as we stepped, knowing how fragile it is, we slowly climbed, stopping now and then to fully soak in the beauty that we were immersed in.

Though the rain was increasing, and we were in some fairly thick brush at times, we were dressed for it. Nevertheless, we and everything around us was wet. We could have become annoyed by it I suppose, but though heavier, the rain still retained that fine quality. It wasn’t a driving rain, but rather, it caressed the skin.

“The people that left when it began raining; they missed all of this” I thought. When it rains in the bush it can feel somehow lonely, but it rewards you with all the saturated colors; the green that is greener than green. And the aromas that the rain releases are to die for; the musky smell of the grasses, the pine and fir needles, the wet rock, the soaked soil.

The Lesson

We did arrive at the Eagle’s nest, but they were no where in sight. It didn’t matter though. We rested under the shelter of a large Ponderosa Pine not far from their lair, our backs against the broad sturdy trunk, our behinds nestled into a springy layer of golden-brown needles, warm with the energy of the earth.

We fell immersed in a profound and natural silence; a pure communion, punctuated only by the rain, and the small trickling sound of a nearby stream making its way through moss and rock, on its path to the blue lake below.

In those twenty minutes or so we were completely together, in sync, and in love. All of our differences dissolved. We sat in that inner silence, sinking deeply into nature’s embrace. Such a calm and beautiful power washed through us under that old tree. We didn’t have to say a word. I doubt that we even could. Later, we simply agreed to get out more often together — rain or shine.

Nature is a clear and powerful teacher. She is always there with a timely lesson. We set out to go for a simple hike, to take a break, to see the eagles. We ended up immersing ourselves in the richness of a rain-soaked mountainside, reconfirming our commitment not to be fair-weather friends with nature; to be with her only in her sunshine. And we silently confirmed with each other that we would not be fair-weather friends and lovers.

Nature showed us, with richness, grace, and natural ease, a simple path to happiness. She reminded us that no matter what our circumstances are, they carry hidden gifts that we receive when we fully accept those circumstances, and remain present in each moment, with each step we take.

On that day in the rain, we discovered a deeper level of beauty that is still with us today.

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10 comments ↓

#1 Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills on 12.08.09 at 4:43 pm

John, I live in the forest and this story really resonated with me. I love the rain, and it’s a good thing because we get about 60 inches a year. This statement: “Nature is a clear and powerful teacher. She is always there with a timely lesson” has proven itself true over and over again in my life. What a beautiful story.

#2 Kathy on 12.09.09 at 7:19 am

Beautiful story John. That’s how snowboarding feels sometimes too, but now I’ve got a hankering for a hike in the rain. Thanks for the “live in the moment” reminder and for helping me relive the smell of the rain in the forest.

#3 John Rocheleau on 12.09.09 at 9:15 am

Hi Jonathan,

I remembered reading on your blog that you lived in a forested area. That must be lovely — even with the 60 inches of rain.

I’m imagining where you live as I type this. I’m thinking that as you open the door in the morning you must get that delicious moist forest smell wafting in.

Thanks Jonathan,

Best,
John

#4 John Rocheleau on 12.09.09 at 9:25 am

Hey Kathy,

I absolutely can imagine that your snowboarding adventures can feel like this. When you are physical as in snowboarding, or in my experience, cross-country skiing, you can easily find yourself totally immersed into the feel of your body working and flowing smoothly right into and through, as if merged completely with the nature you are in.

It’s like we allow all the needless boundaries to fall away. Such a beautiful thing for the spirit and for a relationship.

Okay, now I’m smelling snow on fir branches :-)

Best,
John

#5 Robin Easton on 12.10.09 at 8:46 pm

Dear John, this just moved me to tears. I was right there with you, transported into that very feeling that Nature ALWAYS offers me…effortlessly.

You wrote: “We sat in that inner silence, sinking deeply into nature’s embrace. Such a calm and beautiful power washed through us…”

I know this feeling so well from years spent “with” Nature that I can feel it sitting here at my desk reading your words. I too made a choice this winter to no longer be a fair whether walker hiker or jogger. I’ve been jogging early morning across the high desert in snow storms, wind, FREEZING cold and some sun, and I come home feeling so FREE and ALIVE I cannot contain it. I am working on a video about this. So your post is just sooooooo timely for me.

You awareness and love of Nature is priceless and very very important. And your writing of it beautifully conveys your relationship with Nature. It’s palpable. I feel happy and heartened just reading this. I am SO glad you shared it with us.

Hugs to you,
Robin

#6 John Rocheleau on 12.11.09 at 11:26 am

Robin,

Your thoughts are always so heartfelt, which is why I enjoy reading your blog and watching your “totally in the moment” videos. Thank you for expressing your connection to my thoughts and feelings.

Anyone who has really been in nature, who has allowed themselves to sink into her, knows that feeling of dissolving; becoming part of her. Our little family of three used to go on wilderness canoe trips in the caribou region here in British Columbia. And it was always the same; the first day and a half we still felt the tensions and concerns of the city and everyday life.

But a metamorphosis would happen, and the way I can best describe it is that with each dip of the paddle, more of those cares and tensions would flow down through the paddle into the cold and clean water of the mountain lake or river. I actually felt that energy flow out of me into the water, and as it happened I felt myself fill with calmness and awareness and communion. By the third day we were part of nature; feeling the water’s temperament and strength, the weather, and the life around us in the forest and mountains. we were no longer visitors. I love hearing from others who feel these things.

And hey, I can totally relate to your running in inclement weather. I used to run a lot and people would do a double-take seeing me on some dark and bitter cold winter morning, looking like Jack Frost with frozen breath turning my beard and hair white. They probably thought “what torture,” and I was thinking “how wonderful this is.” We can experience seemingly totally different worlds simply by making different choices and completely owning them. That’s an obvious statement I guess, but one that we can so easily forget to put into practice.

Can’t wait to find out how I can order a copy of your book. Going to check that out today.

Hugs back to you,
John

#7 Mia on 12.21.09 at 3:14 pm

I’ve never seen birds claim their territory from a cat before, I am impressed ;) My old cat is usually the predator, but the other day he was terrified of a very big, aggressive dog that intruded onto my cat’s territory and started barking at him. I’m scared of dogs and I am much bigger than them – I have no idea how my cat felt. But he arched his back and spiked his fur as aggressively as the little critter could.

#8 Gauhar K on 01.16.10 at 11:25 am

Thats a long and interesting story mate… I am a nature lover just like you. Nature is indeed a great teacher, a source of happiness and peace.

Read more from Gauhar K here… Evolution of Persian Gardening Style | The Paradise GardensMy Profile

#9 Self Improvement on 01.21.10 at 1:39 am

Such a lovely story! You have got such a flair to write. Loved this sentence: “She reminded us that no matter what our circumstances are, they carry hidden gifts that we receive when we fully accept those circumstances, and remain present in each moment, with each step we take.” How I wish I remember that every time I am upset at something! Thank you so much, your blog is now one of my bookmarks!

Prashant

#10 John Rocheleau on 01.21.10 at 10:40 am

Hi Prashant,

Thanks for your inspiring words. I appreciate that. Yes, we could all do with a few more notes-to-self to remind us to accept what is, remain present enough to engage circumstances, and create something positive from them.

John

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