February 14, 2014

Wild weather

As I prepare to leave Gladstone's Library in North Wales at the end of a two-week writer-in-residence programme, the wind is once again getting up. We had gusts of 108mph on Wednesday night, throwing much of the rail network into subsequent confusion, and now another storm is coming in. I hope I can get home.

I went to walk in Hawarden Park yesterday to see how the old trees had fared the night before. There were a few branches down, but nothing too dramatic: winds when the trees are not in leaf tend to cause far less damage, as bare trees put up less resistance to the gusts.

Wind is what makes trees grow strong: it makes their wood denser, shaping them as they grow. And they are designed to shed branches; it's part of their natural growth pattern, one way in which they adapt to circumstances.

It almost seems too facile a metaphor, but it's something I've been thinking about this week. Exposing yourself to stress – what used to be called 'stepping out of your comfort zone' – is one of the most vital ways in which we grow. Living a stress-free life is not, in the end, about protecting yourself from difficulties, but about learning how to bend, and what to let go of, when they occur.