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One of my former patients used to tell me about a recurring dream that he had when he took a certain medication. The patient, who was a quadriplegic, not only was able-bodied in the dream, but he had a special ability. He could fly. He would describe in vivid detail the joy of soaring through blue skies and cavorting with clouds. In the dream, he would never come down. This sky-living was freedom to him. The treatment team could not convince him to give up this medication, despite some harmful side effects. The dream meant too much. When I look up into the endless blue, I understand.

Gerald May does too. Chapter nine of The Wisdom of the Wilderness--Experiencing the Healing power of Nature is called Rainstorms. But Gerald May starts where the rain begins: the sky. …often I just rest and let the clouds and the sky that holds them be what they are, let myself be who I am. Then sometimes it seems the sky takes me into itself--or rather reveals that I am already and always was inside it, for the sky does eternally embrace everything. It holds the earth and all creatures within itself. I am always healed in such moments.

That is what this book is about, isn’t it? Healing? It is subtitled Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature, is it not? Anyone who has ever lain on her back on grassy bed to gaze up at the vastness of that sky-world--felt the dizzying effect of her own smallness underneath such a blanket of blue…such a person has felt the power of looking up. May’s words here remind me that healing is most often a moment by moment phenomenon. We catch glimpses of it here, pick up scattered pieces there; but very rarely does it come all at once like a tidal wave. No, healing is more like a rain shower--falling drop by drop, cleansing as it bathes one tiny bit at a time.

In this chapter, we see the boy Gerald May--sitting on the porch swing with his grandmother, learning to discern the scent of rain, imagining God’s growling stomach or giants rolling barrels in the sky at the sound of thunder. Even as a child, May was looking through words; seeking deeper meaning, it seems. For all the stories, the boy Gerald May intuits that when an adults keeps telling you there’s nothing to be afraid of, you know there probably is. And so he develops a healthy aversion to rain storms. I guess we all shared the idea that it’s somehow not good to get wet in the rain. I’m not sure why. Little kids and lovers like it well enough. Despite this checkered past with rain storms, somewhere along the line May comes to welcome them. As he describes his storm-greetings in Tent Rain and Cabin Rain, I couldn’t help being tendered to this transformation. Sometime later, as the rain dwindled to a drizzle, I thought how sad it is that all these rainstorms come and go and I so seldom really notice them…I felt like apologizing for missing the personalities of the storms, and I thought about making some resolve to notice the sky and weather more…

I couldn’t help wondering about the storms of life, and May’s particular storm of facing death. He observes that some storms just won’t be ignored…and this is one of those. I can especially feel his knowledge of this end-storm coming on these latter chapters. It feels as if he is in an open field, arms extended, welcoming this storm-song. And yet…his final words in the chapter are about gratitude for being rescued from the storm. I felt cared for then, as if I must have been worth preserving, and I smiled, and then I slept, embraced by blankets, by the cabin’s soft brown wood, and by the starless, howling sky. In the end, the knowledge that we are held in the hand of God is all that really matters. Food for Thought: **Have you ever had a time where you felt rescued from a storm in your life? What was this grace embrace like?

Post by Laura Boggess, photo by Elizabeth O. Weller

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