I wrote this just before it started raining yesterday, but, apparently, we’re due to return to hot conditions next week and local farmers are saying they need 4 weeks of steady, wet weather to save their harvests…
We haven’t had rain for weeks, now, and the plants are showing widespread signs of distress. Trees are dropping rolls of bark. There are drifts of fallen leaves in bright, reddish browns, quite unlike the earthy colours of natural leaf fall. All the grass is dead, stick-dry and the colour of sand. It’s like a strange, un-sequential autumn, all pale, aberrant hues; an illustration from a fanciful children’s book; an unfamiliar season on an alien planet.
Increasingly, now, I’m frightened. That’s my underlying mood: fear. I suspect this is my response to the drought. I feel so helpless in the face of climate change’s overwhelming malign power. It genuinely does seem to threaten catastrophe, desertification and death, there seems nothing I can do about it, and nobody else seems even to notice.
My response is complicated by the fact that I’m masking and managing my fear by cultivating a preoccupation with hunger, yet malnutrition seems to intensify my sense of distress. My mental landscape seems to be a confused series of wild alarms. I feel like a stag lost in a dead, heat-fossilised forest, tormented by thirst, my perceptions a series of fragments in which I’m sometimes standing, bewildered, tormented by thirst, and sometimes running wildly, my antlers clashing against skeletal tree limbs, followed by a phantom hunt.
Christ! Sorry about all the clumsy, over-extended metaphors.
It was after the last extended drought, I think, that I first began to control my eating and, possibly, over-exercising. We’d just moved to this, very dry, part of England, and, coming from Ireland, I was unfamiliar and unprepared for such an extended period without any water fall at all. I became so anxious waiting for it to rain that I began to have what, looking back, seems like a series of panic attacks. The thought “what if it never rains again?” would force its way into my head and appear increasingly plausible. I’d wake at night, hoping that every slight breeze, brushing the roof tiles, was a gust of rain, but the tarmac under the streetlight was always mercilessly dry when I looked out the window. Alone at night, I started to feel such breathless terror at these times, that I’d fantasize about lying on the parched lawn and opening my veins – ending the torture of suspense in the knowledge that I was watering the grass with 5 or so litres of fluid.
It seems a small step to attribute the rise of an affective, psychological condition that concerns itself with maintaining control, to this distressing experience.