April showers patter on the roof of the conservatory crescendo-ing to a tirade of rain noise until there’s nothing else.
A steady fast tempo drips where the plastic windows leak.
The ground outside becomes slick and the horses in the neighbour’s field are sliding on the slope of the hill as they try to stand upright in the deluge. The small Shetland pony looks bedraggled in her coat. I’m sure by the way she eyes me that she’d like to be welcomed indoors.
The cats have retreated into their private palace and the plants are preparing to sprint from their starting blocks.
Green is swelling moment by moment the rain plumping up the buds fit to burst out as Nature’s very own Botox lips.
This downpour makes me think about the weather.
Weather is such a subject.
“Effin freezing out there”,
“Phew what a scorcher”,
We bring the animals into it with brass monkeys, cats, dogs, and drowned rats.
We know the phrases, the etiquette, the safe topic of general agreement, the subject when all else is put aside to comment on what the weather is doing.
Talking about weather is a neutralising, ice-breaking force on arrival in a shop or passing in the street, a first comment on a phone call, the priority consideration when planning an event.
Weather unites us. We can comment on snow, ice, heat, rain, floods, droughts, fine sunshine or whatever the weather is doing and understand it as our common experience. We can agree what it’s doing for us. We can even find it the most boring topic on earth and yet still comment.
In Britain, where the weather is a constantly changing event, we are well practised in the art of weather conversation. It is so familiar and habitual a topic and so in and under our skin as to be second nature. We don’t marvel at the fact that we are breathing in and out neither do we pause to focus on the inhalation of the breath of the wind nor feel the full connective force of the intimacy.
Modern living can dull our senses: It’s hard to smell the air when deodorants and fabric conditioners are dominating more subtle odours. Traffic on the roads and in the skies deafen our ears and obliterate the quieter rustlings and whispers. We stop seeing so well when our eyes are blasted with too much visual stimulus on screens without horizons.
Our capacity to sensually interpret weather has been compromised until all that remains are these fragmented comments on the various moments of heat, dry, damp or cold when we enter a premises to make a purchase.
But when we do stop, when a downpour halts us in a doorway or a blast of wind whips away our voice, we can grow an understanding where we gave thanks for the rain because we know that we can’t survive without it feeding the earth and fuelling our food. When we listen to the winds, they tell us where they come from.
Perhaps we can even learn to interpret our internal weather in a similar way to the external as the humours of early western medicine or traditional eastern systems knew and still know.
Wind originates and brings its message scouring or breezing or blasting around the globe flying over oceans, whipping up storms, buffeting obstacles and whistling round the window frames of international dwellings everywhere. It blows then runs out of puff leaving the ripples of its passing reverberating. I once lived on a cliff top where the south westerlies blew from over the sea relentlessly and the air as one local named it was champagne. Every once in a seldom while the wind would cease, and the horizontal trees would appear (to my eyes at least) to be quivering as if the molecules were settling into stillness after the constant and continuous agitation.
High above it all clouds wander the skies perusing the world with a majestic overview. Sun and moon are suspended in gravitational mystery as they regulate our lives completely.
To survive, our early ancestors must have known how to read the world and its weather otherwise none of us would be here to tell the tale. Have you ever been caught in a storm or found yourself compromised in unsuitable clothing or footwear whilst out and about in unexpected weather? The feeling is of intense vulnerability. We are put in our place by the vast power of these weather beings’ force.
The forecast is never the same as the reality. Though mostly pretty accurate there is an inexpressible difference between what is and how we attempt to describe it.
All words fail to embody the soaked to the skin feeling or overheating in a wrong choice of jumper that weather brings live and direct to our experience.
The rawness of an easterly wind on a bleak coast or a sudden dump of snow up a hill bring us into life in no uncertain terms.
In these times of climate concern and environmental degradation, in the confusion of illness and health perhaps there is more we can learn than the simple agreement that “It’s due to come in again nice next week.”
Nothing wrong with these pleasantries, in fact I love them as safe exchanges.
However, really tuning in to the effects of all the different gifts that the weather beings shower and blow dry us with, deciding to more fully notice how we are in relation to days of cloud, or a raging blizzard can expand our understanding hugely.
And it’s simple. Doesn’t need a degree or cost anything but a catch of breath and a moment in time.