This is a beautiful and evocative quote by the master poet Pablo Neruda. His book Memoirs, from which this is taken, is a collection of personal stories. Neruda lived a fascinating and adventurous life. As mentioned, he traveled extensively and even lived abroad for some time. Throughout his life, he became very influential as both a literary and political figure.
Here, he mentions specifically the region of Araucania in Chile, where he was born. Very little of Memoirs is focused on Neruda’s childhood or youth. However, whether or not it is mentioned, a person is formed by their experiences of growing up. In this quote, Neruda reflects on memory and how it is tied to a certain place. In his mind, the rain in Araucania was something incredible. As a child he must have been impressed by the “art of rain” outside his window. How beautifully he describes it, as an art itself, with “terrible but subtle” power. Looking on as an adult, he no longer appreciates this with the same intensity. Although in fact the rain is the same as it ever was, Neruda cannot see it with the eyes of a child anymore. It does not seem like art now, only weather. Therefore, for him, it has been lost.
Memory is a strange and wonderful thing, but it can often deceive us. We remember things the way we want them to be, not the way they actually are. Or, we might also consider that a child’s eyes appreciate many subtleties that adults lose the ability to see.