The Scots have a word for weather that is dull and damp: dreich. I adopted it into my vocabulary upon first staying in Scotland for a lengthy period of time a few years ago. It’s a lyrical onomatopoeic truth that really hits home in the British Isles. After all, we have a lot of rain and we describe it using dozens of different words: plothering, letty, drizzling, luttering. They are all wonderful in their own way. However, ‘dreich’ is perhaps my favourite. Its sound seems to cut to the core of human feeling as well as accurately describing weather type.
Dreich is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as:
(especially of weather) dreary; bleak:
‘a cold, dreich early April day’
Bleakness conjures up feelings of hopelessness and despair that can often seem unrelenting. This unyielding relentlessness can sometimes encourage us to project our own feelings on to the weather, and vice versa. We become at one with it, curious to share its illusive burden. Similarly it seems as if the clouds themselves become turgid, desperate to engage with the rest of the world by pouring out amongst us. At its best, dreich weather is a positive engagement between man and nature.
This weekend was a particularly dreich time, and I wanted nothing more than to be outside, to be at one with this great grey expanse of reality. I walked the path towards Pill and Ham Green, on the south side of the River Avon as it approaches its final stages and enters the Bristol Channel. I met the occasional cross-country runner, and even more occasional cyclist, spraying mud to either side as they rode along the broken lane. However, largely it was just me and the raindrops. The sound of cars on the Portway on the opposite side of the river, ferrying passengers to and from the Bristolian metropolis, couldn’t be ignored, although it became easier as I turned away from the river towards the beeches and oaks of the woods.
The raindrops kissed my face as if trying to soothe my decision to embark on this journey.
But I find that there is little problem in walking in the rain. Indeed, there are many positive benefits.
As a weather type it is often associated with melancholy, and film and the other arts have worked to encourage us to see rain in this way. Many of us would rather hide ourselves away at this time, rather than embrace the outside world.
However, this I feel is a missed opportunity.
Rain offers a basic primal connection between your body and the natural world. It can soothe and stimulate and indeed be like meeting an old friend. Rain is open and honest. Unlike the sun which can disconcertingly and slowly burn your skin often without you realising, rain will dampen you from the outset, cooling your skin and renewing the ground around you. It can give you a sense of space and inevitability in its simple continuity of action.
By embracing the rain we are able to embrace ourselves and see opportunities in places where they might previously have seemed distant or invisible. By searching in places you would not normally seek, you are granted a whole new attitude and scope towards life.