Friday, June 1, 2012

The smell of rain drops mixed with the memory of long ago places

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(Cheng Po's Cave)
The smell of rain drops mixed with the memory of long ago places
This morning early as the soft rain was falling my eyes opened but my brain was not yet there. My thoughts were flooded with a way back time.  I was somewhere far away. In fact I was in a number of different places that have held me captive for years.

The first place I went was to the small house at 1422 Elliott Street in Regina.  The year was about 1952 and I was in my bedroom looking out the window.  With my nose almost pressed against the glass I could see the rain touching the glass and sliding down the pain… joining the rest of them as they ran to the roof below.  My window faced the east and looked out over the veranda roof and the prairie past that.  The smell was there as the quiet rain fell.

The second place this morning was my grandparent’s farm house west of Truax, Saskatchewan.  I was kneeling in the big, lumpy of chair that sat below the window on the west side of the west room.  It was about 1956 and it was a windy day with the rain driving against the pain of glass. The sound of the wind hitting the pain of glass and driving the rain drops wildly in any direction was memorising.  Behind me was the old brown space heater that crackled and popped as the heat from the burner inside expanded the metal and the gentle hiss of the burner kept going until it reached the heat setting asked for.  My grandma had lit the fire to just take the coolness out of the air.  But the smell of the rain was there too.

The third place was the barn loft on that same farm near Truax.  The large loft door faced east. The rain driving from the west with the nasty wind picking up made the hay we were lying on feel warm.  The kittens were holding curled up warm against my chest as they purred their contentment. The smell of fresh hay mixed with rain and kittens surrounded me. I never wanted to leave that place.

The fourth place I traveled to was Cheung Chau Island and the Caritas Retreat Centre with my daughter’s Primary Six class.  The year was about 1982 and it is an Island off the coast of Hong Kong.  we had just clamored over boulders and into a dark hole created by many boulders press together eons ago.  Outside the roar of the angry waves crashed against the lower rocks on this rough shore.  But inside the sound the waves were dimmed. It was dry and almost warm inside with the smell of rain mixed with the salty water taste in the air.  The south China Sea was mere arms distance away.

The cave was a hiding place of Pirate Cheng Po from the 1800s. Of Cheng Po I read the following to the kids…
Cheng Po Tsai was just the son of a local fisherman when he was kidnapped by the notorious pirate couple Cheng I and Ching Shih, and adopted into a life of crime. According to legend, when Cheng I died, Cheng Po took up with his adoptive mother and married her, carrying on the family business of pillage and plunder.

At his height of infamy he is said to have commanded a fearsome pirate fleet of 600 ships and a veritable pirate army of 20,000 men.
Then, in 1810 his career took an unexpected turn when he surrendered to the government and accepted a post as navy colonel and an assignment far from his home waters off Hong Kong, patrolling instead the coast of Taiwan.

Cheng Po is said to have squirreled his pirate treasure on Cheng Chau island 6 miles off the coast of Hong Kong. Visitors can follow in his footsteps and climb down into a small cave near the coast and look for themselves, but no treasure has ever been found. The cave is on the southwestern peninsula of the island, and is well marked.”

I could have stayed in Cheng Po’s cave for a long time. In the following years I came back often.

But on that first day, with the waves, wind and the rain falling outside it was magical to sit quietly and imagine the life that Cheng Po lived – listening to the same waves and sound of the gentle rain falling.

To think that there was treasure all over the area that we were sitting in was also magical.

This morning early I returned to the places of long ago. I was 10, 12, and 38 years old… and remembering the sound of rain in my life. The gentle rain falling has left the deep impressions of places long ago and far away.

I didn’t get out of bed for a long time today as I traveled so far away and so long ago.

There is a deep magic in the rain falling as it takes me places.  I love rain.

~ Murray Lincoln ~


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