Oswald and I

As I’m writing this, the rain is still falling, the wind still howling. The gruesome weather started on Australia Day, 26 January 2013, and it is still going three days later.

I live in Brisbane, Australia, and we’ve had the experience of meeting Ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald. He’s been a naughty boy, dropping rain along the whole of the Queensland coast. And now he’s moving down to give New South Wales a taste of it.

Of course, we have been lucky here. Bundaberg, a few hundred kilometres to the North, copped five tornados yesterday. Five in one day. That’s not what’s supposed to happen here in Australia. My thoughts go out, also, to the people in Brisbane who are getting flooded by the water coming down the Brisbane River. Normally sedate and calm, the river (which is about a hundred metres from where I live), is rushing along and showing white-topped waves. It’s the wind and the vast amount of water coming down the river that’s doing it.

But I confess to being a little selfish this morning. Don’t think I’m sitting here totally dry and safe. We have a heritage-listed wall in our basement. It was built by convicts way back when, and being heritage-listed means we can’t do anything to it. It’s full of holes and water has been seeping (and trickling, and in one instance, spurting) into our basement. I’ve been up in the night trying to plug leaks in a wall that I’m not actually allowed to touch. Thank heavens for those plastic shopping bags we aren’t supposed to use.

But while my night wasn’t exactly restful, this morning something changed in my attitude to Ex-Cyclone Oswald. I decided at 5.30am to walk down to the petrol station on the corner to buy a newspaper. It was raining really hard, but I thought it would be a good idea to see what was happening in the street after the wild night. Besides, I get the paper every day, its a habit. I like doing the crossword over my morning coffee.

So I fearlessly donned my Mont Hydronaute Pro™ rain jacket (can I do a plug here?) and overpants and walked the six hundred metres to the shop and back.

It was not the same world that I usually see on these walks. In summer, the humidity of Brisbane makes it a sticky and damp experience even at 5.30am. In winter, of course, I walk in the dark and the cold and feel the crisp air in my lungs. Today, the rain made it a whole new experience, and one that was just as interesting as every other time, but in a totally different way.

I didn’t get wet, apart from my face and hands. My rain jacket cost a lot of money, but its absolutely superb, and it was doing exactly what it was designed for. But it was like being in a space suit. I could hear every drop that hit the hood, thumping down hard, and very loud.

The world was amazing. The gutters running over, of course; no birds (usually at this time of year the magpies are swooping at me in defence of their nests); a blocked drain that couldn’t cope with the flow, so that water was gradually filling the road; every tree dripping; the wind tugging at me, even managing to make me stagger a couple of times.

I felt wonderfully alive. Nature was throwing herself at me. I had deliberately put myself into her path, stepped outside my flat to take her on face to face. It was a great start to my day.

The man behind the counter at the petrol station recognised me, which was no mean feat given I was literally bundled up to the nose in my rain jacket.

“How are you today?” he asked.

“Wet,” I said. Succinct, if a little obvious.

I paid for the paper, which I bundled into a special waterproof pocket (I love my rain jacket!) and walked home, having left a large pool of water on the petrol station floor. The walk back was into the wind, which added another dimension to the experience. Not any more uncomfortable, but certainly a new level of sensation.

So that was my morning expedition. The wind has just gusted again, the rain is still thumping down, and it will continue all day today, according to the weather bureau. The river is flooding (high tide due in a couple of hours), and I know a lot of people are going to be flooded. I am sorry for them.

But today I saw the world in a different way, through touch and sound as much as sight. It awakened me. It’s an amazing world we live in: not always good to us, but it does us good every so often to see it in a bad mood. That keeps us alert, and inspired, and awe-struck. We only live once. For that, I am grateful.

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