October 17, 2014

Weathering the storm

Autumn's long, dry spell is over, thank goodness, and rain has been sweeping across the country for the last few days. We chose this week to go on holiday, and are in Devon's Blackdown Hills; realising that there was no escaping it, we drove to Dartmoor yesterday, put on our waterproofs and did a 13km walk. Afterwards we dried out a little in a pub, and when we drove home in the pitch black, water sheeting out from our car's wheels, fierce lightning flickered incessantly over the moor.

Today we did a shorter walk from Broadhembury, and everywhere we could see the evidence of last night's weather. Many roads were strewn with leaves and mud, pushed into lines and runnels by overnight cascades; elsewhere, the drains at the roads' margins were thick with newly shed leaves and gurgling with water still coming off the higher ground, small torrents that were in places beginning to undercut the road's surface. We walked through a field of young winter wheat that had a long channel torn through its reddish, sticky soil, stones and soft earth piled up at the lowest point where the rainwater had drained into a ditch, and in the village itself the girl in the pub told me they'd had the sandbags out last night; one of the thatched cottages near the ford had a sophisticated looking flood defence board still up across its door.

What we notice most about rain – as I have, just now – is how it affects our plans and priorities: our days out, our transport networks, our agriculture, our homes. It's deeply anthropomorphic; it's also natural. We can't stop being human, after all. But while we see what it does through our own particular lens, in truth the weather has no regard for us at all – although we are beginning to alter it, both through climate change and our interference in other processes such as cloud seeding, too. The rain falls neither for our benefit, nor to inconvenience us. It just falls, and all we can do is weather both storm and drought the best we can – as every living creature must.