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Visibility Sometimes Wandering and Sometimes Reassembled:

On Being in Rain

Environmental Philosophy  The Journal of the International Association for Environmental Philosophy

Volume 14; Issue 2, (Fall 2017). pp. 239-254

ISSN: 1718-0918

doi: 10.5840/envirophil201742449




If we attend to things only in terms of their bearing on our own projects then our experience of them will be filtered through their compatibility or incompatibility with those aims. This essay is about the experience of rain in the northern latitudes and the work is built around a phenomenological description that relies on accounts of direct experience which are then considered through Maurice Merleau-Ponty's conception of flesh. In thinking through the phenomenon in this way, the overlapping nature of interior and exterior "reality" (and thereby human and world) can be foregrounded and the notion of a dichotomy between these realms, undermined.



              I walk out into the woods again later and there is just a light but cold speckling drizzle blown up and around by a breeze. I disturb the course of these specks as I walk through them. This rain, with the face turned into it, feels like the palpations of many, tiny, gentle, cold fingers. It’s enlivening; the blood rises to the surface of the skin to meet this stimulus. A bare young birch glitters with small beads of water; I take off a glove and raise my hand slowly, aware that one clumsy movement will dislodge every gem from the tree, and place my finger carefully under one of the suspended drops. I can see myself reflected there, surrounded by bare branches and sky. The image is tiny and contained. I lift my finger further until the tension across the cold drip breaks onto my skin and sits there on the fingertip. I turn my hand to examine this miracle more closely but it slides away and down my sleeve into the warmth of the inside of my wrist. I feel a bubble of laughter and a sense of gratitude rise up in me for this moment of communion with the birch in the rain; a grateful awareness of something more than myself that permeates across and through my entire being.

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