The Water Element

The sound of the rain pounding on my kitchen roof is phenomenal. Within the deafening, protracted drumroll of water being heaved out of the sky, I can hear a huge variety of percussive, dripping sounds. Some are loud plops – created, I think, by the gap in the guttering above as it releases its contents in steady, measured amounts. Others are collective trickling and splattering sounds – the music made by the impact, then the run-off, of the raindrops on the sloping glass windows of the skylight, as the intensity of their descent first rises to a crescendo, then settles to a background of repetitive pattering.

When the volume of the main event decreases, I can begin to make out other, distinctive taps and rappings, as if the rain is knocking to come in – which, of course, it does. Whenever it rains, life in my kitchen becomes an adventure. The water, in its mystery and wisdom, never uses the same entrance twice. It prefers, with each new visit, to explore a different route through the inner workings of wood and plaster, bypassing those incredible human inventions of impenetrable rubberized black plastic roofing and completely impermeable mega-sealant.

It arrives unexpectedly, with a quiet – oh, so quiet – ‘plash’. This is followed by a lengthy silence, just long enough to allow me to believe I might be mistaken. That this time, the gang have managed to fill all the gaps and repair all the leaks. Then – there it is again. I set off on a tour of the floor, looking for the give-away sign of tiny puddles. Was that one where I dripped earlier when rinsing off the cat bowl? Or this one here, a melted patch of ice from when I dived into the freezer first thing to get out the dogs’ tea to defrost?

There’s only one way to be sure. I stand over the wet patch and wait to see of something drips on my head.  Yes, there it is. A new crack in the ceiling, through which the water is gently seeping. Stage three of the action plan involves re-arranging anything that matters into a temporary holding – like fresh washing on the overhead airer – and then cracking open the dog towels. Fortunately, I have plenty of these. And, I have discovered, they have the interesting effect of changing a ‘plash’ into a ‘splat’, and eventually dampening it down to a muffled ‘thunk’.

Over the years, I have come to accept this eccentricity of my home. Lacking the resources to do a third major re-roof, and actually having no desire to live in a hermetically-sealed box, anyway, mostly I enjoy my own personalized version of ‘the weather’. Sometimes it proves inconvenient – cooking my Christmas dinner last year included standing hunched over the gravy-pot as it bubbled and reduced so that it wasn’t continually diluted again! And occasionally, it is disastrous – if it rains in the night, I have once or twice woken to a ‘lake’, newly formed from, presumably, previously-stored reservoirs in the ceiling cavity which have finally reached tipping point and have, consequently, been ‘gobbed’ all in one go. (Like I said – thank God for dog-towels.)

But strangely, I find something comforting about sharing the rain with the bees and flowers I can view through the window from the relative ‘safety’ of the kitchen table. The bit where I sit to write falls just inside the backroom so is free from watery-interference. I love to watch the colours change as the rain brightens them to richer, deeper hues. I revel in the unexpected waterfalls and rivulets that appear, cheerfully flowing off the log-store, or jumping from seed-head to leaf … to leaf … on the finished columbines next to the pond. And when the rain stops, everything glistens and sparkles. The remaining raindrops, resting on the plants, turn to diamonds in the light and shine like stars underneath my garden bench.

And perhaps the best gift of all … the melée that is my life gives me plenty of opportunities to discover the best words to describe it.

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