For many people along Colorado’s Front Range, the past week’s worth of clouds held too much in the way of rain and too little in the way of silver linings. Famous for skies that are not cloudy all day, the region has seen only fragments of sky beyond the clouds of late.
The damage from the resulting deluge, though isolated, has been severe. Some have lost their lives, others have lost their homes, members of the local TV media have lost their voices and their minds (to compare the scattered flooding from these rains to the Biblical flood or Hurricane Katrina is ignorant and irresponsible).
But sometimes, to spin Shakespeare, hath the cloudiest day some sun. Although suffering through six consecutive days of showers does have the effect of making one feel like a resident of the nameless city in David Fincher’s Seven, the rain itself was much needed, particularly after years of drought and wildfires.
Despite being branded as natural disasters by much of The Fourth Estate (particularly the breathless television wing), the fires and floods alike provide important—even vital—ecological benefits. And no matter how hard we petulant humans protest, Mother Nature will scour us and give us a good washing when she deems necessary.
The Zuni people, whose tribal name provides street designations throughout the areas recently impacted by heavy rains and flooding, embraced the clouds and what they held. Songs sung during the grinding of corn often welcomed the appearance of clouds and the Rain-Makers:
High up in the sky,
See Rain-Makers seated,
Hither come the rain-clouds now…
All will soon be abloom
Where the flowers spring—
Tall shall grow the youthful corn-plants.
* * * * *
Lovely! See the cloud, the cloud appear!
Lovely! See the rain, the rain draw near!
It was the little corn ear
High on the tip of the stalk.
Saying while it looked at me
Talking aloft there—
Ah, perchance the floods
Ah, may the floods come this way!
* * * * *
Yonder, yonder see the fair rainbow,
See the rainbow brightly decked and painted!
Now the swallow bringeth glad news to your corn,
Singing, ‘Hitherward, hitherward, hitherward, rain,
Singing, ‘Hitherward, hitherward, hitherward, white cloud,
Now hear the corn-plants murmur,
‘We are growing everywhere!’
Hi, yai! The world, how fair!
If nothing else, this surly, swirling storm system offered spectacular cloud watching, which is infinitely superior to crowd watching. Clouds can be great triggers for the imagination; the more they roil and boil, the better. Clouds invite us to see in them what we will—gods, camels, dragons—and they are artists with the limited palette of shadows and light.
After a nearly seven-day downpour, it is understandable to wish the rain away. But the sun and blue sky are never so welcome or so beautiful as when they emerge from the parting clouds.