Posted by: ktzefr | March 3, 2017

Rain, Tea, Poetry

Tranquility –

Rain on the palapa roof

Tea on the porch

Sarapiqui Neotropical Center, Costa Rica; Photo:MFawcett

Sarapiqui Neotropical Center, Costa Rica; Photo:MFawcett

I love the way our minds make associations and jump easily from here to there in space and time, connecting people and places and moments in life that otherwise may not seem to be related at all.

The poet, Mary Oliver, says it best: “Of all the reasons for gladness,/what could be foremost of this one,/that the mind can seize both the instant and the memory!”

This week I’ve been reading the zen poetry of Ryokan, the Japanese hermit-monk who grew up wealthy but chose to spend much of his life in poverty and alone.  I realized after reading part-way through this collection of poems (One Robe, One Bowl) that it was always raining.  Was this a reflection of Ryokan’s loneliness?  Just a few of the images flipping through the book…

“Lying in bed, listening to the sound of freezing rain.”  “…all night a steady rain pours off the banana tree.” “Sparse rain: in my desolate hermitage at night…”  “Light rain — the mountain forest is wrapped in mist.”  “…the autumn wind blowing a light rain that rustles through the reeds.”  “I have mistaken the sound of the river for the voice of the rain.”

Winter, summer, spring, fall — poems for every season.  And rain.  I like this one:

“Late at night, listening to the winter rain,

recalling my youth —

Was it only a dream?  Was I really young once?”


Windchimes; Photo:KFawcett

Windchimes; Photo:KFawcett

Associations — When I started reading this collection it was sunny and in the 70s.  I was having tea on the porch.  But the further I got into the book and the day and the “rain” images, the more the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in and I eventually had to pack up everything and head inside to keep from getting wet. 

By then I was thinking about rain in Kentucky — the way the clouds dropped over the hills above the river (wrapping them in mist, like the images in Ryokan).  I knew to the minute how long I could stay outside before the rain would reach me.  Well, most of the time I knew.   

I remembered rains in other places, too — from the Eastern Shore to the Caribbean to the mountains of Mexico and the rain forests of Costa Rica.  I’ve often heard others fret about the rain, especially if they’re on vacation or planning to go.  But I actually like rain at the beach and especially the “morning after” the night rains in the islands and the jungle.  Everything seems fresh and alive and new again. 


Years ago, when this photo on the Sarapiqui River was taken, I was sitting on another porch, watching rain drip from the palapa roof, trying to absorb the incredible beauty of my first experience with rain in the rain forest.  Long before then I was reading Ernesto Cardenal, the revolutionary Nicaraguan poet who had studied for awhile with Thomas Merton at the Trappist monastery in Kentucky.  His poetry was known for its political messages, but I was drawn to the cultural traditions revealed in his writing and the beautiful images of a country he obviously loved.  It was easy to fall in love with Central America…

“Thousands of fireflies in the black foliage

and the Southern Cross

deep in the black sky…

And there was a clamor in the air:

the cry perhaps of a strange bird,

answering another cry like it farther off.


The water so clear

it was invisible.”

~ Ernesto Cardenal, “19th-Century Traveler on the Rio San Juan”


So, I was sitting on the back porch beneath the bare maple reading the poetry of a monk living in 18th century Japan who was writing about rain, and my mind hopped and skipped around all over the place to the rains I’ve known and the poets I’ve read and how it all is somehow connected.  I was feeling that gladness that Mary Oliver spoke of when she said the mind is able to “seize both the instant and the memory.”


SarapiquiS Neotropical Center, Rainforest Lodge



  1. Beautiful and insightful!

    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks, Mayla. I love poetry.

  2. Dear Sister, You have described this so vividly and so real, I have goosebumps, and had to turn up the heat and sit on the sofa with a throw over me. I love the rain. Brings back memories of Puerto Rico and Mexico – somewhere peaceful. Thank you.

    • 🙂 yes, I love rain in the tropics.

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