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Rain-spotting on nature’s canvas

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Looking out the window, mornings of poetry and beauteous scenes

What is this life if, full of care; we have no time to stand and stare.

– W.H. Davies

Most Sunday mornings, I make sure I set aside some time to vindicate the Welsh poet. Aiding me in this leisurely endeavour is the bedroom window of my second-floor flat, which overlooks a rare patch of unutilised earth in the residential locality where we live.

The logistical or administrative reason for this has proved a godsend. Nature, abhorring a vacuum, has taken over the plot of land in its own inimitable way: wild, disorderly undergrowth of shrubs, with no allowance for symmetry or colour, and affording no space for flower-power of any sort. It is a typical carpet of different shades of green, none of which have been tended by human hands. A few plants and trees, some familiar, some not so, seem to provide elevation and perspective. A couple of coconut trees spiral up into the blue sky. This is the square canvas with the ‘nature painting’ that my window affords — assuredly a sight for the sore eyes of this city-dweller wearied by quotidian cares. And so, many an hour on Sunday mornings is spent lazily focussing and defocussing on this work of art, embellished by a gentle breeze and bird-calls of various tones.

Water-brushed hues

And then comes the monsoon. Same time, same place. But the painting is now getting ‘water-brushed’. The brush strokes and their effects vary. One day it is the gentle ‘barely there’ rain: you feel like reaching out a hand to wipe away the mild blur across the painting. Another day, it intemperately lashes across — you have no option but to call off the art appreciation session. And then there is a blessed day, with a clear sky and steady drizzle — it sets you off in a vain literary pursuit (like the present one!).

The hitherto still-life painting seems to have taken on a life of its own. The tone and texture of its green components seem to alter as the raindrops descend on them. I watch in fascination as the green carpet below winks and glints at me. These are the hundreds of small leaves, of varying shades of green, doing flip-flops as they give in to the pressure of the droplets. The rapid change of surfaces creates an overall shimmering effect, maintaining a true rhythm with the steady rain.

Meanwhile, a little above the ground, the large taro leaves sway like elephant ears. Hardly under any pressure from this rain, they coolly flash and flaunt their water-droplet pearls. At eye-level is a staid wall of green in the background, formed by the closely packed, unremarkable leaves of a clump of trees. The rain seems to just disappear into this wall, leaving no trace of moisture. Shifting my gaze, I look up to see the unruffled leaves of the coconut palm shirking off this precipitation in the form of drops dripping from the tip of each leaflet. And so this painting gets embellished for those magical moments. Missing in action are the butterflies and dragonflies, subdued out of their flight by the rain.

And so, the minutes stretch to an hour or so as nature does its stuff, uplifting the mundane to the ethereal. Myriad film song lines pass through the mind, describing gentle rain. Time passes, fleetingly, unknowingly; the spell is usually broken by the lunch call or some guests. Reluctantly, I peel myself from the window, thankful to both circumstance and nature, for the serendipitous gift. And, a line from another poem (by John Updike) comes to mind: Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.

unnikrishnanmenon8@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 3:10:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/rain-spotting-on-natures-canvas/article19699449.ece

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