Ask Them To Be Kind

A black cloud moving in.

A black cloud moving in.

While driving across South Dakota, the darkest cloud I’ve ever seen rolled across the sky and consumed the light. The cloud was dense and black. It was heavy, its belly hung over the car and seemed to press us to the earth. It seemed more than cloud. It was ominous, a presence.

When we started the day we’d intended to drive through the Badlands but a prodigious rain had slowed our progress. We saw the rains marching toward us across the open land. It was both beautiful and daunting and hit us with a wave of authority. This storm meant business. We crawled through Wyoming with other back road drivers, watching the barely visible white lines to keep on the road. Motorcyclists pulled off the road and stood next to their bikes; there was no shelter to be found.

Although we lost a few hours to the storm we thought we might still make it through the Badlands before nightfall. And then the black cloud appeared and ate the last light of the day. Once many years ago I did a night dive through the wreck of a sunken ship. In the dark of night, deep in the ocean, while swimming through the bowels of the ship, it’s decks between me and the surface, I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. This blackest of clouds enveloped us like the ocean at night and I felt that same sense of pressing suffocation.

The gods of nature are not to be ignored. Once, I sat with a Balinese man who told me that, according to their belief, it was with the dark forces of nature that people need alliance. There is no hell in their paradigm so dark and evil are not bedfellows. There are forces: creation and destruction in an eternal cycle of rejuvenation. Their rituals are about making peace with the black clouds, the gods of lightning and rain. “The forces of light are already with us,” he said. “We ask the dark forces to be kind.”

Looking through the windshield at the ominous pressing cloud I whispered, “Be kind.” It was. It let us go. We heeded the warnings and left the Badlands for another day. Later that night, sipping wine from plastic hotel cups, safe in our room, we sighed and laughed at how utterly small we felt on the open plain amidst the power of the storms. With that smallness came the gift of alertness. We were fully awake, alive with moment, stripped of the illusion that humans have dominion over anything. We savored our moment, temporary, passing, and perfect.

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Canopy by David Robinson

Canopy by David Robinson

One Response

  1. Powerful, David, and full of thought. As always. I love the balance of smallness with the gift of alertness.

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