Musings on a Summer Evening

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Last Night the Rain Spoke To Me
By Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the wild and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

As I go out of the door, taking my dog on the last walk of the day, my boot crushes a snail. I hear the sharp crunch and lift my boot, but it is too late. It’s pretty, with a yellow and brown striped shell. Not your average, drab common garden snail.

There is nothing I can do — I guess it will end up being a bird’s supper — and I continue out of the garden gate. But I wonder: how can it be that there are people in this world who purposefully kill other human beings, when I stop for a moment and feel sad about killing a snail?

Compassion for others seems fleeting. Last week I watched a political debate where the audience was allowed to ask questions, and one of the repeated questions was whether the political party candidate would use a nuclear bomb ‘to keep the country safe’. But do they not think about the horror that nuclear warfare would unleash on the world? Do they want another Hiroshima, another Nagasaki?

Continuing on my evening walk, the rain dripping into the puddles, I watch my dog press her nose into the damp earth, and I wonder what rich smells are rising up out of the grasses and leaf mulch. To a dog, it must be quite intoxicating. Is their canine sense of smell as powerfully linked with memory as the human nose?

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We continue our meander on, the summer rain still ceaseless. Sometimes I am impatient – the evening walk yet another item on the to-do list. But tonight, I’m happy to wait and ponder a while while my dog sniffs the earth, drinking from the puddles as her long ears grow damp.

Some evenings, when it’s clear and warm, the bats are out – catching insects as they fly and swoop, coming so close that I can hear the buzz of their wings vibrating as they brush past me.

It’s difficult to live in the moment, but walking quietly alone with my dog, it comes to me why being outside, close to nature, has always been so important for me. Nature is simply ‘what is’, indifferent, continuous.

The summer grass carries on growing; the tree roots deep in the ground are spreading and expanding, nourished by earthworms turning the soil; and the bees are out gathering pollen. As humans, we like to think that everything is under our control, but we are smaller than we think, and there’s a certain comfort to be found in remembering that.


9 thoughts on “Musings on a Summer Evening

  1. I really loved this post, Grace. The poem itself was beautiful but then all of your great descriptions tied everything together so wonderfully. Compassion for others does absolutely seem fleeting these days and between my immediate surroundings and the greater social/political contexts of the world, there seems to be so much arrogance and self-serving agendas. It feels like I’m stuck in a mercenary vortex where everyone is out to get everyone else and no one seems to be genuinely thinking about the greater good or even just something outside of themselves. It can be hard to keep our sense of perspective but like you, being out in nature or talking about things other than myself with other people reminds me that I’m just another human in a world where many things are out of my control. And that the only thing I can truly control is my own perspective and reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 I wrote this one evening last week as a free-form piece of writing. It’s very rare that I sit down and write a blog post in one sitting – I wish inspiration would strike more often, haha!
      You’re right that our perspective and responses are pretty much the only things we can control. But I find that’s easier said than done. I read an interesting article yesterday about how our past experiences shape our emotions and responses. Here’s an extract with the link:
      “You have past experiences, and those experiences become wired into your brain, and then your brain uses those past experiences to make guesses about the immediate future.
      So, emotions aren’t happening to you. Your brain makes them as you need them. You are the architect of your own experience. It’s just that most of this is happening outside of your awareness” —
      I hope you’ve had a good weekend. Mine is nearly over – it always seems to fly by!


  2. A lovely piece Grace, both vivid and evocative, gentle and totally in the present… those moments when we make ‘time to stop and stare’ are so precious…it’s only recently that I discovered that WH Davies who wrote those lines was a tramp.. his whole life one in which he made time to stop and stare…I’m still working at it …
    I know that awful crunch when you’ve inadvertently trodden on something !!! It matters, doesn’t it, when any spark of life (and snails are intelligent sentient beings ) dies out from our precious planet ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.

      The WH Davies poem was on a cassette tape of poems I listened to as a child. But I didn’t know anything about the man behind those lines. It’s true –’time to stop and stare’ is important for our wellbeing. There are many studies which say that being outside, close to nature, helps people with depression and anxiety. Mary Oliver, one of my favourite poets, writes beautifully about the natural world.

      I’m away in the far north-west of Scotland at the moment. There’s a lot of wildlife: pine martens, herons, hedgehogs… And I hope to see otters, eagles and dolphins too. Life moves at a slower pace here.


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