Friday, July 27, 2007

Cha’ac god of Rain

It rains every afternoon during the rainy season in the Yucatecan jungle. We stayed too long at the cenote, diving from the steep edges into the deep black water, displacing lilypads with each splash. Grey-black clouds blew in and obscured the opening to the sinkhole as we looked up from the cool water. In the lightning flashes we scrambled up the bank and into our clothes, and the raindrops began to fall.

We had spent most of the day in the unbearably hot, humid, verdant forest walking along paths that our Mayan guides cut through the brush with their machetes. They knew where the footpaths were that led to ruins of walls, tombs, and pyramids in the impossibly dense webs of vegetation.

The first thing I felt was the green breath of the forest. And quickly I became aware that the jungle was actually alive, an ancient, breathing thing, sentient beyond the understanding of limited human comprehension. Reluctantly, the guides began to speak to me (their Spanish was heavy with a clipped, guteral Mayan accent) about this sacred place the way they would an elderly predecessor whom they revered. They said that some days it was angry and moody. This day I felt its overwhelming presence to be simply languid, not exactly welcoming, but sort of idly accepting of our presence.

It had taken over an hour to drive to the trailhead on rutted, overgrown dirt roads. Another 45 minutes of walking had brought us to the cenote. There was no quick way out. What began as giant drops of rain quickly became sheets of solid water pouring from the sky. I fell behind as we hurried down the path of running mud. I wanted to experience this rain in solitude, to soak it into my being. It was cold and refreshing. I was absolutely drenched within minutes- at times I felt as if I was almost swimming through the thick air.

The rhythm of my footsteps, the pounding of the rain and the saturation of my senses with the water began to carry me into a trance. I lost track of where my own body and sensations ended and the raining jungle began. Lightning was striking the ruins of the pyramids that rose up toward the sky, and the thunder was absolutely deafening. I became aware of not just what I saw in front of me, but of the forest all around me. The animals and plants were indescribably magnified to me, and I was aware of all of them at once as I knew they were aware of me. At one point I closed my eyes, because I no longer needed to see to know where I was going. I felt the trees and rocks in front of me much more vividly with my mind than I saw them with my eyes. It felt as though I was experiencing the world through two dimensions when I used my physical senses, and three dimensionally when I let go of those senses and allowed myself to become a part of the jungle. I became aware of the company of people who had lived in this ancient city, not as individuals, but as spirits that had been born and died generations over in this once and still sacred place. The rain god Cha’ac was there, and I felt the euphoria in his presence the way the ancient people must have every day during this life-giving season of rain.

As I came back to my senses, I was overwhelmed with joy and peace. I raised my arms and my face to the rain as it fell, crying and smiling and feeling so incredibly thankful for the experience. Every time I return to the countryside in the Yucatan, I feel the whispering of the living land. I carry that gift with me in my own native desert land, a little bit of knowledge of the divine which I cannot explain, and would not even if I could.


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