Most often they come by night, the perfect moments of nature.

Perhaps it is because the darkness attends them — mimicking the suspension of time, the feeling of eternity wherever you are at any given, unexpected moment. When the vision of the physical body is eclipsed by the atmosphere of night, the other senses open like moonflowers. Every scent is charged, each sound amplified.

I am reminded of this now, because it has rained — a good, hard, soul-cleansing storm, punctuated with lightning and a low rumble of thunder building to something louder and more memorable than an easy evening storm with a steady patter on the roof. Out there, it seems the dry ground is gulping up the spatter of rain drops.

I live these days in a house that is perhaps better termed a cabin, an A-frame with addition, as my landlord describes it. “Addition” under these circumstances — namely, with me in charge — translates into “storeroom.” Practically speaking, the house is a one-bedroom, open-concept dwelling with a teetering deck that might give way under the weight of a harsh word.

It is to be replaced.

But for now, the dog treats it as a queen-of-the-mountain vantage point, and she likes it that I leave it solely to her. From that platform she can keep her eyes on any potential intruder — even a chipmunk or moth.

I am told that there are strategic windows in this triangular structure of glass and wood, apertures to the outdoor atmosphere that are important to close in a storm. The rationale has something to do with preserving the window frames, but it involves a kind of architectural physics that I find as bewildering as the tic-tac-toe of electrical wiring. One oblong of the house has electrical connections that are reliable but not others, in which the notion of circuit breakers holds a distinct emphasis on “break.” Then, there is the metronomic repetition of the struggling plumbing — draining one moment but not the next, or the variable spray from the shower head with the power of a gentle spring rain.

It’s a house you have to get to know to love.

I appreciate its idiosyncratic maintenance demands because they keep me attuned to how fragile is the boundary that separates us from the out-of-doors — especially on this stormy night when the precipitation is as moody as movements in a symphony. At just this moment, the sound of the music is suspended; I have arrived at an upstairs window in the rest between chords of rain.

I lean toward the screen as though it were a confessional, and perhaps it is, because as I do the ritual work of cranking the glass to its closed position, something overwhelming and redemptive happens.

A light wind gusts up like a spirit rising from the ground, ascending to where I stand like a widow at the window — watching nothing but waiting, listening to every sound of the forest, drinking in the scent of the earth, the surprise of mud and fecund humus, leaves and petals gathering water like chalices of wine.

I lift my head up and turn my face fully into the wind as though I were a brown bear, standing on my hind legs in a rushing stream, my nostrils flaring, my anxious hungers holding me aloft on two paws. This is a moment that helps me know, despite my age, that I should still be crawling, a mute animal, an infant in the world of delight.

Mud, wet earth, a scent so rich it overpowers everything else in the night air, surrounds me. The sounds that a moment ago held my attention cease to entertain, leaving only an occasional shudder of lightning to illuminate the world of shadows and bursts of form that fade in a second.

But in this moment I feel I belong, a particle in the great whole. For an instant, I know the earth, how it coaxes the crops from the soil and keeps them reaching toward the sun and sky, the moon and a million fractures of starlight. Like me, the corn and wheat, blueberries and apples are clinging to that evanescent fragrance of the wet earth, the endlessly reconstituted promise of harvest.

And then the wind dies down like a fading ember, and the moment finishes. Though I linger for a long moment here, hoping for more, I am reduced to the insubstantial status of a figure framed in a dark square in the wall of a triangle. Every essential form seems to have been delivered to me by the soaking, sultry earth.

Then I turn the crank on the levered pane and shut myself in, where the lights go on or are extinguished by my choice — if nature allows. The perfection of the moment has passed, and it is time for bed.

Sweet dreams, I say to myself, a comfort against the loss of this eternity in a moment, oneness with the natural world. Sweet dreams, and safe. A welcoming world waits in the sunrise.

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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