Nancy’s Notes: A hard rain
I’m at my desk on a Monday morning, listening to the steady roll of thunder, as a rain falls hard and fast, then ebbs away to a patter, only to come roaring back, drowning out the office sounds around me. I’m reminded of my favorite Bob Dylan song, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” Dylan sings to his “blue-eyed son” and his “darling young one” as the mysterious lyrics weave imagery of misty mountains, dead oceans, a damp and dirty prison, and wild wolves.
Dylan was my dad’s favorite singer, so I grew up listening to records of the poet-balladeer. I guess “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” is my favorite because it feels like the one my dad probably most related to, though he loved “The Times They Are a-Changin’” the most, I think. But Dad had a blue-eyed son, and I guess that would make me his “darling young one,” as I am the younger sister to former. When I hear “A Hard Rain...,” I imagine the words are coming from my dad who was a young man when the world was tempest-tossed in the 1960s. He was there for the great change that occurred in that decade. He saw the fight for Civil Rights. He was in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He saw the hippy movement and, had he not been in the service, would have gone to Woodstock and been a part of the Summer of Love.
“And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world”
I’ve been thinking about those lyrics a lot this year; how tumultuous it must have been in the 1960s when Dylan wrote those words, when my dad bore witness to so many changes and the world waking up. 2020 seems to be the tipping point for a new dawn. What will our world look like when the sun rises ... if it rises? Our wold is plagued with natural disasters, wicked men in power, hordes of starving people, war-torn nations, diseases, and unspeakable levels of cruelty. Every generation has a period of change and upheaval that feels like the end times. Are we any different from our ancestors who saw the Black Plague or World War II, the great Potato Famine or in the year 536 when a mysterious fog enveloped Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, turning the world into darkness for 18 months?
“Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred”
At one time or another, we are all wounded in love or wounded in hatred. How do we deal our wounds? Do we keep opening them? How do we heal in a world that seems spinning out of control? Dylan sings of a girl who gave him a rainbow. A rainbow comes after a flood, as was promised in Biblical allegory. It is a sign of hope, a persistent theme of humanity that lures even the most cynical hearts. Hesiod wrote of hope in the days of ancient Greece. Pandora’s box--truthfully, it was a jar, but I digress... Prometheus stole fire from the Heavens, angering Zeus. As punishment, Zeus had Hephaestus create Pandor from clay, and the gods each gave her a gift (her name means “The one who bears all gifts). Zeus then presented Pandora to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus. The gods gave her a jar and told her it contained very special gifts, but she was not to ever open it. Her curiosity got the better of her, so she opened the jar, releasing all the bad energy of the world: disease, despair, hardships of all kinds. Scared, Pandora quickly closed the jar, leaving only “hope” inside.
“Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”
Whatever this world holds in store, we can choose how we react to it. We choose to heal. A hard rain will fall on us from time to time, and the world may seem dark right now, but we all carry a rainbow in our pockets.