Weathering the Storm: Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health.

When I was out walking the dogs earlier the sky had begun to darken. I had been deep in thought. Lost in the events surrounding me.  There’s a lot happening right now, lots of changes and I am keen to make sure that I make the right choices.  I am not totally lost in thought though, I have long trained myself to keep one eye on the world and also one ear.  Life and experience is precious and I don’t want to miss anything special that happens around me.

It is for that reason that I was lucky enough to see a badger the other morning.  Whilst walking along one of my favourite stetches of path, I heard a rustling behind me and looked back expecting to see a bird flying clear now that the danger had passed. Yep, they do that, I guess that’s where the phrase birdbrain comes from. However, a badger was on route from the wheat field into the base of the nailbourned North Stream.

‘Wow’, I exclaimed.  They are big and solid. I am glad I wasn’t in its path.  The first badger I have seen in the wild.

Anyway, I was aware of the darkening sky and then also aware of the increasingly loud rumbles of thunder.  I called to the dogs, and we increased our step.  There was a thunderstorm coming.  I love being out in the rain, but not getting wet. 

I always think a thunderstorm in the daytime is a waste. Lightening needs a dark sky to truly display its magnificence. There is no question though, as the sky gets darker and darker, the atmosphere gets more and more electric. I can feel the tension and excitement mount and I begin to feel alive as the energy in the air begins to feed the adrenaline that begins to run through my veins putting me on high alert.

I can see the rain coming now.  The dogs and I are running, me because I know what’s coming and the dogs to keep up with me. Bruno is only small and his little legs have to go ten times more than anyone else.  The dogs can feel the electricity in the atmosphere too and bark back at an unseen enemy to alert the world about. In what seems like forever and no time at all we reach our home and head for our undercover pergola.

I take a second to sit down and the dogs both leap onto the seat beside and onto me. I take their leads off, and we all begin catch our breath. At that moment, the heavens open and the rain begins to come down.  It goes from a few drops to all of it almost instantaneously. It isn’t all of it, but right now it certainly feels like it.  The rain hits the path and jumps back up at least a foot.  The drops are extraordinarily big and seem to explode on contact with the ground, just a part them returning into the air.

And the world is loud, very, very loud.  As well as the rain drumming on the roof of the pergola, and everywhere else come to that, it has an all-enveloping aural back drop of thunder to maximise the sensory overload. I am very grateful for the roof over this part of the pergola, and that we made it back here just before the rains really came down and with a totality and enthusiasm not met every day.

The roof I can thank myself for.  I know just how fantastic it is to be outside in the rain provided you are not getting wet.  Right now, I feel alive in a way you can only ,feel alive, when you feel a connection to the world and its energies. Right now, I can feel them coursing through my veins and I jump up unable to stay seated any longer.  I dance around the little island oasis that my pergola has become, excitement becoming uncontainable.  The sheer joy in being alive is intoxicating.  I am also aware that had I not designed this part of my garden to be this, then I would either be indoors, or soaking wet, and even though it’s 25o C, I would still chill very quickly.

Like all storms, it soon passes, half an hour and the rain stops; shortly afterward the sky begins to lighten and the world becomes quiet.  The only sound is that of rain dripping from the trees, plants and shrubs in the garden.

They too are grateful that the storm has passed.  Thery had the full force of the rain with no shelter.  However, now that it has passed, whereas they had looked beaten down, they now stand back up proud and once again full of defiant life.

It is as though they know you have to bend to allow the storm to pass, which it always does, and when it’s done its thing, stand back up and crack on as before.  There may be some remedial work to do, but that can be sorted.  In fact, there seems to be little damage around the garden and one most amazing feature, the pond that was beginning to need topping up, is now full. 

Even in the most powerful of onslaughts will have a silver lining, it’s just that sometimes you will have to go and look for it.

I think there’s a lesson there somewhere…

Simon Pollard Garden designer and Countryman 2023.

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