I wait all day for the moon to bleed. I’m ready to set off, to head for a point high on the banks of the river where I’ll be able to see the horizon. I’ve watched the sky all day and listened to gentle grumbles of thunder, with growing disappointment, but have never quite given up hope. Our first rain in weeks is forecast, and though I long for the rain, I hope it will hold off, just for a few hours. But soon, the sky blooms dirty grey and I know that the moon is lost.
Lightning comes first: flash after flash with barely a pause in between. It fractures the sky in hot white slashes. Thunder booms and crashes. And the rain comes heavy. We stand outside in it. After a day so humid it was hard to breathe, this is welcome refreshment. The sky becomes darker and darker. It’s difficult to tell where storm ends and twilight begins. A street light winks on and we stare up, up into the grey, revelling in getting wet. The air smells like burning. Celebratory voices waft over the storm. We marvel at the lightning, and as the thunder vibrates off stone and brick, echoing in the spaces in between, I feel my body vibrating too. The storm is bombardment: there is violence in it, and abandon, and the joy of long-needed rain. I don’t remember a storm like it.
The day after the thunderstorm, the air breeds noise. I hear the distant roar of planes at the air show thirteen miles down the coast, like an echo of last night’s thunder. The wind flaps and rattles. The fog horn hums. The air remains alive: moaning and roaring and singing.
There is talk of climate change on the news, of the heatwaves and wild-fires across the world, of how this could be our new normal. Nobody says it’s already too late. They talk in measured tones of getting greenhouse gases under control, but I suspect we’re the proverbial frogs already slowly boiling as the water heats around us.
I love the British seasons. I love the predictability of the transformation from one to another, but I love the way the weather is never predictable within each one. I love the way that an obsession with the weather is part of the British psyche. I fret at the thought of hot, dry summers to come. But a week after the eclipse, and it seems that the British summer as we know it is here. The heat hasn’t abated, but it’s punctuated by showers and cooler intervals.
I walk in the country park in the rain. I don’t mind getting soaked. It’s still warm and the rain is still a relief after such a long absence. It patters and drips from the trees. Drops are cupped in the flowers of wild roses. The hedgerows aren’t yet in their full August colours of yellow and purple. The purples of greater willowherb and knapweed have arrived, but the yellows are mostly absent. I hear the coo of a wood-pigeon hidden in the canopy as I walk the overgrown paths, and the occasional cluck of a moorhen, but otherwise the birds are silently moulting, not even a blackbird serenading the rain. At the pond, I watch a moorhen guiding her chick on the grass with soft clicks. A mallard shepherds a brood of teens – I can’t tell which is the adult. I watch a crow bathe in a gutter. Rain must be a relief to all of them.
Lammas has come and gone with its promise of transformation. It is the first in my favourite cycle of festivals and heralds the harvest to come. There have been warnings this week about food stocks for animals being dangerously low, and while I think about the harvest of my own achievements, I also wonder what this year of strange weather will mean for the other gatherings to come. But the final harvest isn’t here yet, there is still time to make a difference to the reckoning, and for now, the storms are the only help I need.