Parsing the Clouds

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We are well into the rainy season here in San Cristobal, a time that brings two kinds of rain. One that leaves light sprinkles on the sidewalk, that is easily convinced by the sun and the wind to pass along, and another that brings torrential downpours for hours at a time. For the last thirty days straight, we have experienced one of these kinds of rain (most commonly the latter). When the clouds appear around noon, it is nearly impossible to know which kind of rain is coming. There is a very common saying among Coletos (natives of the city of San Cristobal) when they get drenched, “es que no tenía cara de lluvia” (it’s that the sky didn’t have the face of rain).

This has made dry laundry for many of us a luxury. I have found the best approach is to not let your laundry get caught in one of the downpours. If it gets dripping wet, it will take days to dry, and usually ends up smelling mildewy. One downside of this approach is that on laundry days, I have a fair amount of anxiety. I often dash home in a panic hoping I will beat the rain. I try to tell myself that even if the laundry gets wet, life will go on. It reminds me of the time when I asked my sister about her need to have two or three back-up ketchup bottles in her pantry. “What kind of a mother would I be if we ran out of ketchup?” was her response. At the time, I laughed, but seems I feel the same about clean dry underwear.

Today, I came rushing home early from work, threatened by the gray clouds. On my way I passed an elderly indigenous woman, her bare feet padding lightly along the sidewalk. I was a little embarrassed to rush past her, but feeling the need to rescue our laundry, I politely stepped off the sidewalk and greeted her as I went flying by. I got home just as a few sprinkles hit my face, gathered the laundry, and sat down to do some reading. Two minutes later, the sun peeked out of the clouds, and I thought of the woman in no hurry to seek shelter from the clouds. She knew the kind of misty rain that was coming, that it would quickly pass by.

I realize the roots of my anxiety are not really about having clean dry laundry. Perhaps my sister and I both carry the memory in our veins of our grandmothers who had to feed lots of children with few material resources. But I also think it is a reflection of the current moment in which we are living. The perception of danger, insecurity and financial uncertainty are highly elevated, causing worry over seemingly small things. The anxiety over laundry is a sign that I need to give those feelings more space in my life. I also think of the sure-footed, light steps of my sister on the street, and I recognize my need for her guidance to parse the clouds of San Cristobal. In the same way, I wonder who else I need to look to for guidance, who has survived more proverbial downpours than I have. In looking to and connecting with others, I’m able to form my own sense of deep assured wisdom that doesn’t flinch at the appearance of gray clouds.

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