|by Jamie Ratchford|
The first rain of spring came as I sat inside my house on a warm April afternoon. My sister rushed over to tell me so I wouldn’t miss it.
“Come quick,” she said.
We stood at the back door watching the sky pour, peering eagerly through the glass pane. But that wasn’t enough. We needed to get closer. We needed to be a part of it.
“Take off your shoes,” she said.
We smiled at one another as we shed our burdens and darted outside into the midst of it. The feel of the cool wet grass beneath our feet, the warm refreshing drops on our bare skin; it was bliss. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as we danced joyously in our backyard, laughing and celebrating the first spring rain.
My childlike spirit has been sleeping, but today I have stirred it awake…. As the eleventh hour grows near in the wake of the advancing climate crisis I will step outside, take off my shoes, step into the soft grass and look up at the sky.
But that was ten years ago. I couldn’t tell you about the first spring rain of 2019. I don’t remember it. I don’t remember where I was, what I was doing, or how I felt. I was probably inside a classroom, sitting at a desk or staring into the transfixing gleam of a computer screen. I might have been scrolling through Instagram or mindlessly scanning the newsfeed on Facebook, glowering at dispiriting headlines. I might have been busy doing homework. The point is, I wasn’t outside.
And I lost something that can never be replaced. A day of joy and reverence, lost to humdrum tasks and tedious routine. Exciting things were taking place all around me beyond the four-walled enclosure I had trapped myself inside. Life was unfolding outside.
The sun had made its way north of the equator, bringing with it longer, sunnier days, heating the atmosphere to produce the first pleasant showers of the year. The early bulbs began to appear, bursting forth from the dark soil. The buds of the trees elongating, the chlorophyll eager to sup on the inviting light. The great emerging had begun and I was nowhere to be found.
As I sit here on this chilly March afternoon, typing these thoughts, I am harried by all the things I need to get done in the coming days. There are articles that need to be written, interviews that need to be scheduled, and countless other burdens on my mind. But then it dawns on me — spring is right around the corner. I pause and think about making some changes in my life, like hiking more often. I realize that there is nothing I want more than a chance to stand beneath the first warm spring rain of 2020.
I think back to that day in April, to the sound of the chirping chickadees delighting in the rain. I close my eyes and I can see the glow emanating from the Ash, Maple, Oak, and Juniper trees. Each shade of green so vivid, so vibrant against the steel grey sky. I can recall the sweet, pungent smell of wet earth awakening my senses as the rain plastered my hair against my head. I’m taken back to the feeling of freedom and euphoria. I long to feel that way again. I make a vow to never forget.
Too often I get lost in adult responsibilities, busy trying to do things other people want of me. I get stuck keeping pace with the clock, setting my life to its advancing. Every morning I am startled awake to the ringing of the alarm. But I want this year to be different. I want to be more deliberate in each day. I want to spend more time outside embracing the moments as they come. I want to greet the sunrise in the morning and bid goodnight to the moon. My childlike spirit has been sleeping but today I have stirred it awake.
In the book of James (4:14) he said, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
And the Blackfoot warrior Chief Crowfoot said, “What is life? It is a flash of a firefly in the night. It is a breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
These simple poetic verses remind me that life is fleeting and there is no time to waste. The days ahead are full of promise and wonder. I find hope and truth in nature. I am at peace walking through the forest and restored sitting beside the stream. I can think of no better way to spend my life than to reside in nature’s glory.
As the eleventh hour grows near in the wake of the advancing climate crisis I will step outside, take off my shoes, step into the soft grass and look up at the sky. We are running out of time to reverse the worst effects of climate change. We have to wake from our sleeping and remember who we are. We are the children of the earth, molded from the clay. We are living, breathing, feeling creatures. And we are free.
Jamie Ratchford Jamie is a writer, photographer, and 2014 Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker. She has volunteered with many organizations such as Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and PA-DCNR. She recently graduated from Northampton Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Journalism.