Welcome to day 14 of 28 Days of Have Heaven, a short month of posts about heaven, paradise, perfection and desire, perfect places, art, theology, gardens, and more, using the Enya song “China Roses” as a jumping off point. Each post will look at these elements in itself, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally be related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted
We’re in the midst of a dozen days or so playing with some of the lyrics and elements in the song “China Roses.” It’s packed with interesting plants and allusions, and since I don’t know what was in lyricist Roma Ryan’s head when she concocted this magic, I feel I can construe the lines as I wish (“who can say the way it should be?,” after all).
Yesterday, the topic was woods of dreams and I follow. Today’s is rain and river. (I skipped “I know that if I have heaven / there is nothing to desire” because I’ve talked about it already and will probably do so at least once more in this series.)
As I mentioned at the start, taken as a whole, the lyrics span time from dawn through day to evening, night, and moon rise, evoking an exotic Eden, mythic and romantic, scented with heady fragrances, planted with unusual specimens made lush by rain and river, under a swirl of celestial motion. Explicit in the words and implicit in the connotations, histories, and mythologies are repetitions and reverberations of these conjurings, a journey through time in a day, time in an eon, eternity in the cosmos.
Here again are the lyrics:
Who can tell me if we have heaven,
Who can say the way it should be;
Moonlight holly, the Sappho Comet,
Angel’s tears below a tree.
You talk of the break of morning
As you view the new aurora,
Cloud in crimson, the key of heaven,
One love carved in acajou.
One told me of China Roses,
One a thousand nights and one night,
Earth’s last picture, the end of evening:
Hue of indigo and blue.
A new moon leads me to
Woods of dreams and I follow.
A new world waits for me;
My dream, my way.
I know that if I have heaven
There is nothing to desire.
Rain and river, a world of wonder
May be paradise to me.
“Water is the driving force of all nature.” ― Leonardo da Vinci (source not clear, possibly the unfinished “Treatise on Water”)
“A river forms from water moving from a higher altitude to a lower altitude, all due to gravity. When rain falls on the land, it either seeps into the ground or becomes runoff, which flows downhill into rivers and lakes, on its journey towards the seas. In most landscapes the land is not perfectly flat—it slopes downhill in some direction. Flowing water finds its way downhill initially as small creeks. As small creeks flow downhill they merge to form larger streams and rivers. Rivers eventually end up flowing into the oceans” unless they peter out before then.
Rivers are made from rain, directly and indirectly. If you want to learn more, check out A Rough Guide to Rainfall, Run-off and Rivers (Jan. 2016) by John Mason, about the complex nature of flooding. He covers how clouds and rain form, types of rain (dynamic rainfalls, convective rainfalls, and hybrid rainfalls), run-off, improving upland resilience to run-off, and what happens to the run-off: rivers.
“… something I saw early one morning a few years ago … There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running …. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth. I don’t know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. I wish I had paid more attention to it. My list of regrets may seem unusual, but who can know that they are, really. This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.” — Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
I tend to think that water used to grow vegetables is a form of blessing, too.
Like a river, I can live
between the shiver and the skin
that holds my shadow. — Malachi Black from “Lucid Interval” (2018)
BEHOLD, RIVERS! some of which flow into other rivers and travel thousands of miles until they empty into the ocean:
When you stop to think of a river’s experience — the constant, meandering, extravagantly dynamic journeys in time and space, hugging then letting go of land, everything changing moment to moment — it’s, pardon the pun, almost unfathomable. And a drop of rain: the same rain that fell millions of years ago across the ocean, alchemy of hydrogen and oxygen, vital force. It’s nothing less than elemental magic, without which Eden is no garden.
TOMORROW: Paradise to me
Featured image: rain, Warren’s Lobster House, Kittery, ME, June 2009
by W.S. Merwin
All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning