online: 26 june 2004
modified: 25 june 2004

24 june 2004 weather and politics

Thousands of leaves, hundreds of twigs (less than 10mm diameter), tens of small branches (more than 20 mm diameter), all snapped off by yesterday's freak winds, not seen in June for 60 years (such weather caused postponement of D-day).

I see a white object on a tree-trunk... when I get closer I see it's a bouquet of purple and white flowers, resembling carnations. Someone has provided a water supply in a plastic bag...

I sit under the tree through which came pinhole camera images of an eclipse in 2001.

Rainstorm over east London - tall buildings looking like faint objects, half-real. A short arc of rainbow appears...

It's begun to rain here now but the camera-tree is acting as an absorbent umbrella (until it saturates and begins to release its own rain on this so-far-dry seat).

A man and a woman walking under a large umbrella. He holds it over both of them. The wind blows their hair, streaming behind them.

Yes, from here I can see 5 distinct weathers:

1. distant rainstorm with part of a rainbow (to the east)
2. moderate local rain in this meadow
3. settled grey clouds with no rain (to the north)
4. serene blue sky with creamy-pink cloud-layers and cumulus clouds (to the south and west)
5. and this still dry micro-climate beneath the camera tree, an oak.

The rainbow gets brighter as the rainstorm sweeps towards the southwest. I take a drink of water and begin to read something about the American Declaration of Independence*:
The pattern of American Society was still unsettled in 1775; in 1776 Jefferson's dream was put into words, and throughout the Revolution, not suddenly, not obviously, but gradually and almost without self-knowledge the American people worked out their political future...
...'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' wrote Thomas Jefferson long before they were self-evident even to the Americans who supported his words, 'that all men are created equal.' In the next seven years the weight as well as sound of his sentence won general approval among Americans...
...There is an awful and thrilling moment in the lives of nations as of men [and as of storms, write the fingers]. What had been long feared, long hoped for or long thought inevitable happens at last, the dreams and nightmares become daylight reality and are followed by an excited pause in which few men can tell whether their own excitement is terror or exhilaration. Thus it was as the news of Lexington and Concord [the beginnings of the Revolution] spread throughout the Thirteen Colonies.

The umbrella tree is still not saturated (there are only 10 to 20 raindrops in the seat beside me) but the next seat, beyond the tree, is wet all over. Insects still hover and jump in the air and slanting beams of sunlight illuminate and intensify the colours of the grasses...

...and now the rain gets heavy, loud, as it beats on the leaves above. The rain comes through and I unfold my umbrella... the rainbow comes closer, it seems to touch the ground 200 meters away and becomes a complete arc, doubled... I can hardly hold umbrella, pen and paper in this wind, this exhilarating weather... yes, I see the rainbow is now between me and the trees... there is no crock of gold.

I've seldom, if ever, seen so complete and vivid a rainbow, and so close - and now there is sunlight at ground level as the wind speed drops and blue sky appears to the northwest, where the storm came from... everything looks cleansed and shining, all shadows and contrasts. And there is no one in sight...

20:35 The rain's almost stopped and I can walk now towards the sun... I move out from under the tree to view the whole of the rainbow and its ghost. I see that the place where I sat is still completely dry... A human being appears and a hawk-like bird settles in the grass. The human shelters under a tree and the bird seems to be chasing, or perhaps eating, something on the ground.

20:50 Parliament Hill. The storm's already moved south. The tall buildings at Canary Wharf are in rain and mist while those near St Paul's are clear - the city now looks like painting by Turner, or someone... I remember Constable's water colours** painted on Hampstead Heath and the weather notes he made in pencil.

* ...I have been thinking about the American Revolution since I listened this morning to a broadcast in which it was said that the Declaration of Independence, or any such idealism, will inevitably become tyrrany unless there is separation of powers, each limiting the others... So I brought with me a book in which that revolution is described: R B Nye and J E Morpurgo, A History of the United States, volume 1: The Birth of the USA, Penguin Books Harmondsworth, third edition 1970, pages 200-201...

I realise that the creative democracy I envisage must be modified if this pessimistic view of ideals is true. But is it?... Only if dualism prevails, I say to myself. I prefer to think that good and evil can become complements of a sublime and indescribable unity.

**These can be seen, I believe, in the Tate Britain gallery in London.

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