Saturday, September 27, 2008


Rain silvers the air outside. Space shimmers with water falling, falling.

The trees stand perfectly still behind the rain. Each leaf is waiting for its raindrop. Tiny globes of water glisten on the ends of the pine needles, each one a crystalline world poised to leap into the void. Around the pines, water flashes and falls and gleams and glistens. Each of the thousands of drops shoots down through space alone, splatters into the ground alone, vanishes as an individual--alone. The trees watch these thousands of births and deaths in silence. On a tree, each leaf clings to its twig, and each twig to its branch, and each branch to the trunk. There is no solitude.

The plummeting drops shatter on the pavement, explode in the grass. The collective noise of their passage roars in the air. I shut the window. I am inside and dry, in the quiet, in the stillness. My world is solid, not liquid. I sit on a bed which stands on the floor, which rests on beams and walls, which reach roots into the earth.

Here, the earth is solid, dependable. It will not leave its place just because of the rain. Today it is raining, but tomorrow or the day after, my world here will still have its former shape. The rain will not have washed anything away. In other places, the rain has more power. . . Last night I watched the Indian film "Before the Rain," in which the coming of the monsoons is a real threat to the stability of a road being built in the mountains, and thus to the entire life of the British planter Moores, who has staked his entire fortune on a the project of building this road. The coming of the rain is a non-negotiable deadline. Meanwhile, his life and the lives intertwined with his are falling apart because of his careless love affair with a married woman from the local village. He tells her he loves her, truly loves her, and she trusts him enough to put her honor and her very life in his hands--and he fails her. Then he sends her away. But a person is not a raindrop falling alone and sinking alone into the soil. From the leaf of her disappearance follows a full tree of disatrous consequences. As Moores's unsuspecting wife, Sajani's distraught brother, and the entire village look for the lost girl, Moores does his best to bury the incident in his mind, and instead focuses on building the road.

Leaf by leaf, twig by twig, events branch outward. . . Nothing is in Moores's hands anymore, though. He had one real choice in this story, and that choice determined the tragedy that destroyed his family and wreaked Sajani's life. He chose to break the bond of marriage, discard his own promises, tear through Sajani's vows. He destroyed that one thing, and everything grew up around him, inevitably.

When finally the rains come, the road stays steady. But Moores, his friend, his wife, his lover, his son--all are gone. The Indians march for Mother India, and the rain pours from the sky upon an alien landscape.

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