It is ten degrees, and the sky is the colour of lost hope. So much water is pouring out of it that I start to suspect that something has gone wrong with nature. It’s the kind of rain that should be a brief storm, it is so intense, but it keeps on rolling, as if it has taken a bet. The hills have disappeared into the smoky cloud, and even the sheep look despairing.
Down in the field, the horses do the stoical, flat thing that they do in the weather. They close in on themselves, and have no use for humans. It is purely atavistic; they are in survival mode. Water lies on the fields, dirty and reproachful, and the two mares stand under their favourite tree, but even its majestic green arms cannot protect them. I bless the new rug technology, but the wet still runs down their dear faces and into their ears. (I laugh a hollow laugh at the vastly expensive shelter I built for the weather. They only use it to get out of the sun and away from the flies.)
I too have rug technology, but despite a laughably ‘waterproof’ coat, a hat and sturdy gumboots, after half an hour the rain has got me. It sneaks down my neck, finds its way down my back, trickles sullenly into those stomping boots. I have to accept the wetness. There is no fighting it.
I gain some small consolation from putting out the sweet-smelling, dry hay and mixing up an extra special breakfast for the poor, drowned girls, rich with meadow chaff and herbs. I stand and talk to them as they eat. They cheer up and come out of their shells and flicker their ears at me, and I leave them a little brighter than when I found them.
All the same, this relentless downpour seeps into my soul and leaves me with a humming spiritual ache. I am generally stoical about the weather, but it’s been so rotten for so long, and everything I own, including my house and my car, has turned into a festival of mud. It knocks over my defences and makes me dwell on the sad things, rather than determinedly looking for the silver linings.
Then, of course, I feel cross with myself, because people have so many burdens to carry, and it’s just a bit of mud and wet. I go to the shop, to get some bread and coffee and ham. I see a mother and daughter. The mother is perhaps fifty, rather elegant and smartly dressed. (I look down ruefully at my filthy jeans.) The daughter is about twenty-five, and has some kind of severe mental impairment. She talks loudly, in the simple language of an infant, and stays very close to her mother.
I look again at the mother, with her bright, put-together surface, and feel a moment of awe. Her child will always be a child. She must have to look after her all the time. I wonder if she ever gets a holiday, or can go away for a day. I think of the enduring and unconditional nature of love, of the battling human heart, which does not quail from difficulty. Perhaps that mother loves that daughter even more, because she was not like the other children in the playground. But all the same, there might have been expectations, hopes, dreams, which had to be adjusted. Humans are very wonderful, I think.
As they leave the shop, the daughter turns around to say something to the lady at the till. The speech is so blurred that I cannot understand it. But the lady at the till, who seems to know the girl well, gets every word and chats back, and laughs. The daughter smiles a smile so dazzling that it lights up the gloomy day.
Never assume, I think.
I think of a woman I know on the internet. One of the things I love about the blog, and about the fine side of social media, is that I make quite profound connections with people I shall probably never meet. When people get sneery about virtual life, as opposed to the vaunted real life, I wonder at how little they know of the internet. The kindness of strangers lives there. Those strangers become known; small redoubts of common interests, thoughts, feelings, sympathies, jokes, generosities are set up.
This woman is dealing, with enormous courage and elegance and grace, with one of the greatest tragedies in life: the slow end of her Best Beloved. She writes about it a little, in brief, potent bulletins of sadness, but she will also write of small pleasures – the beauty of her landscape, the making of a cake, the antics of her chickens. I think of her great grief, and the dauntless bravery with which she faces it.
And all I have to deal with is a wet, gloomy day. I hear the knocking at the door as the Perspective Police demand to be let in. It’s just a little bit of rain.
As I think this, my spirits do not lift straight away. One can know a thing intellectually, and not quite feel it in the gut. I understand that there are people out there, brave men and women, who are fighting battles I can hardly comprehend. I understand that I have very little of which to complain. Yet, the cross voices still persist, shouting defiantly in my ear. They are on a roll, and will not be turned away so easily.
I go out again, into the rain. On days like this, the very land seems drowned, as if the elements have defeated it. I want to take a picture of it, to show the gloom. As I begin to focus the camera, I find not gloom, but beauty. The raindrops dance off the puddles like little firework displays. Tiny beads of water cling to singing green leaves like diamonds. All the greens are so green. If it were not for the rain, I think, there would not be this lush, verdant glory. I imagine the relentless nature of the desert spaces, where rain is hardly known. I think of the people of California, who are running out of water.
I stare at the beauty. There it is, in the small things, on this dark day.
I feel better. The oppression lifts.
I go inside, laughing at my own absurdity. The Beloved Cousin rings up, always a moment for celebration and delight. She makes me laugh more than anyone I know. And England take a wicket.
It’s just a little bit of rain.
As I finished this, I thought – I’ll just get on the Google and see if there are any nice poems about rain. The only line I could think of was that enchanting one from ee cummings – ‘Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.’ Which of course is not about rain at all.
The first poem I found was this one. It is by Longfellow:
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.