A teacher asked a student: ‘What sound is that outside the gate?’ The monk said, ’The sound of raindrops.’

~ Blue Cliff Record, Case 46

This is such a simple and evocative story. I remember some years ago waking in the middle of the night during retreat and listening to the deeply rich sound of dewdrops before they hit outside


my window. We are now in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recent California history. The salmon are struggling to come up the rivers, forest fires are burning out of control and our farms are suffering from dried-up wells. As fall approaches, we are all anxiously awaiting the refreshing sound and smell of raindrops, well before they hit the ground.

Jingqing, the teacher in the above koan, continued: ‘People are upside down. They delude themselves and chase after things.’

Of course, he was talking about more than just rain: we are all hoping that that love relationship arrives, that a certain job comes in, or that our children graduate fruitfully from high school. Of course we delude ourselves and chase after things: we are people anxiously awaiting the sound of the rain drops! It is in that dynamic gap before the drop hits that life really appears. I look forward to the time when the creeks overflow again and the hills turn green again. I have no idea when that will be, but isn’t it sweet just listening for it?