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What Does the Rain Smell Like?

No, that is not a Koan.

I really want to know, do you ever experience what rain smells like, or feels like, or looks like, or sounds like? I mean experience it, not just know about it. Do you ever go outside when it’s raining or do you stay locked away inside cursing the rain and craving the return of the sun. Try going out in the rain some time. It’s a full sensory experience.

Different rain looks different; from the almost invisible drizzle to the almost blinding storm. Sounds of rain vary from a slow and steady patter to a pounding drumming. It can either just moisten your skin or drench you more thoroughly than your indoor shower. And the smells; I love the smells before during and after a rain. You can tell what kind of environment you’re in with your eyes closed when rain wets the world. Damp pavement smells one way; wet grass another and freshly tilled, wet soil is as rich a smell as you could ever wish. You can even turn up your face and taste a pure country rain.

I just got back from my mid-day walk. Usually I do it as exercise, but today rain was coming in and it started to rain on me partway through. Sometimes I would have turned around and gone home but today I decided to open myself to the experience of it, and I was so mesmerized that I slowed down to the point my drill sergeant fitness tracker refused to even count it as exercise. I didn’t mind a bit. There’s also, by the way, the way the air moves when rain is coming in. It can go from totally still so that you feel the humidity build up as sweat on your skin, then a moment later a strong wind dries you and cools you so fast you tremble from the cold.

I know what some of you are thinking: aren’t you supposed to be detached as a Buddhist monk? Should you be as rapturous over sensations as you are? I say a wholehearted yes! Detachment to me is not a lack of connection but the rejection of clinging attachment. To be connected to the world is to experience it fully - both the rain and the sun. To be connected to society and my place in it as human is to experience every sensation, feeling, person and emotion fully and completely in the moment they occur without craving for their unchanging remaining and without mourning for their eventual passing away.

Children know this intuitively. They have a natural desire to experience the moment because they have a natural understanding of impermanence. We have to tell children to come in from the rain; but why do we do it - to give them one more thing to be worried or afraid of - or are we jealous of how fully they experience the moments in their lives? Instead of instilling our own aversion we should be reaching for their sense of wonder.

No moment and no experience - be it rain or sun, joy or sadness - will ever exist as it is again. Instead of hiding ourselves away from them we should embrace our inner child and go outside and splash in the puddles.

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