Before I moved to the woods, I didn’t understand how rain travels, how I could hear it moving closer and closer by its sound on distant, then nearer, leaves. I didn’t appreciate its motion, how I could track a storm’s path by the sound as it traveled slowly up the mountain, growing closer with each second.
If I thought about it all, I assumed that clouds lowered over an area, and at some point rain simply fell from the sky. I would have said that when it rained over me, it would also be raining over my neighbor’s house, at the end of the block and also at the next street over. If it was possible for someone to notice timing differences at all, it would be over miles, not feet.
In truth, rain moves in slowly; at a measured, if inexorable pace. Sometimes I can hear it roll up the hill for perhaps half a minute before the first drops reach my cabin roof. It is a gentle sound, a little like wind through the trees, growing gradually louder and louder as it nears.
The sound itself and the knowledge of what the sound is have become one of my favorite little treasures, a small piece of lore that people who live in cities or suburbia don’t get to experience. I certainly never heard it or understood what it was until I moved here and into a silence that allows for understanding and perceiving such small noises.
The first time I noticed this distant gentle noise, I didn’t know what it was. It sounded a little like the wind, yet I knew it wasn’t. Gradually, I’ve learned to recognize the sound earlier and over greater distance. The sound seeps into an edge of my awareness, eventually breaking through whatever else I am hearing. No other sound is quite like this one, not even the wind, though that is what I compare it to.
The sound of rain traveling up the mountain reminds me of wind because wind also travels in the much same way, letting me hear it before I feel its effects. Sometimes the rain I hear never reaches me at all, and I hear it pass through the valley or hear it roll along the next mountain, missing my little corner of the forest.
It is only because I live where it is already quiet that I am able to hear this gentle sound. No other sounds compete with it as they would in more populated spots. The everyday noises of a city or a town, even on a quiet street, are likely too loud to allow someone to hear sounds this gentle. And even if a street was quiet enough, on some hypothetical day, the lack of trees, at least compared to the numbers of them in a forest, would prevent comparison to the sounds I hear.
Sometimes I think about our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago and how they must have also understood this sound and knew what it was. It makes me feel closer to them to think that I share this small knowledge, this small similarity with one piece of life that they experienced.
I connect with their lives and connect to the earth in ways that I never imagined before I moved here when the sound of rain travels through trees.