Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wilderness in St Albans 

I forgot. I was supposed to order some ink cartridges before Christmas. Well, it was a rather busy time... Nothing for it now but to go out in the rain and buy some, from a shop, and pay handsomely for the privilege - each one £2 above the internet price.

In the rain, did I say? In the deluge, more like. Depressing all round, you might think - unwanted trip, pointless extra expense, dismal weather - yet, strangely, that didn’t turn out to be the case. Quite the opposite, in fact - all in all, in cheered me up no end.

It’s four o-clock in the afternoon, the clouds are so thick it’s already fully dark, yet the streets are bright, even cheerful. It’s so wet that the light - from shop windows, headlights reflected off the road, Christmas lights strung across the main street - seems to reverberate, illuminating everything three times over.

Water, water, everywhere... glistening on PVC canopies of the market stalls, cascading out of overflowing gutters, flooding in sheets across the pavements, a floodlit curtain of sparkling drops hanging in from a tree; it’s the kind of rain you cannot ignore; no matter how waterproof your coat and your shoes, no matter how wide your umbrella, it dominates outdoor existence.

And that, I think, is what does the trick. I often bemoan the fact that I live in a largely suburban environment, a long, long way from contact with wild places and raw nature. But weather like this brings the wilderness into town; it stands there in front of me, a giant with arms folded, grinning slightly - so now you see me, it seems to say. I was here all along, if you did but know it.

I breath deeply and fill my lungs with air from above the Atlantic Ocean; feel the splash of rain that for all I know in its younger days was coursing down the Amazon. Wilderness comes to town.

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