Last night (as I write) we had a very localised thunderstorm. It only lasted about an hour but something like 4 inches, almost 10cm, of rain fell.
I know this because the empty vase we left outside had 4 inches of water in it by the morning, like some sort of water gauge.
It had been very hot and humid all day and, like most homes in the UK, we only have central heating and not air conditioning. So, we’d left all the windows and some doors open to allow the very slight breeze to circulate the air in the house to make it bearable.
When the storm broke, it was more violent than expected and soon we had to run and close doors and windows or at least pull the windows to the point were rain could not get in – almost all our windows are hinged at the top.
We mopped up what little water had flowed in. But we had unknowingly missed the one window which was both side-hinged and offered no other protection from the downpour.
As we surveyed the resultant carnage outside when the rain stopped, my wife noticed a puddle forming by the door onto our decking. The source of this, she noticed, was a small ‘stream’ trickling down the stairs from a side room which leads to our garage. And this is where the unattended window was.
What a mess!
Not only was there a huge puddle, but a significant volume of leaves and mud had been brought in by the rain. So we started to clean up, and that’s when my heart sank.
Immediately below and beside this particular window we had been storing quite a number of documents, pictures and paintings. Almost all were wet and some were very badly damaged.
Now I’m the first to acknowledge that material items, such as pictures and paintings, can be replaced (normally), and the main thing was that no one had been physically hurt. Even the room’s resident guinea pig was unaffected.
However, most of the things that were damaged were of great personal significance, irreplaceable and meant a great deal to me. There were pictures of my entire family almost 18 years ago, at Orlando and Boston, when the children were little (I look so young!). Unique pictures that can never be replicated. My Degree certificate. A drawing my eldest daughter made in prep school. Intricate embroidery work my late mum gave to my wife and me. A picture of SS Uganda, the last ship my late dad served in. An etching of Bruges Cathedral, which came, I understand, from my great grandfather in the nineteenth century and which I recall hanging in my grandparents’ house.
I hope you can therefore understand my heartache. Although none were destroyed and lost forever, some were disfigured and irreparably damaged.
The point of my melancholy musing is simple. Don’t lose contact with your past. Even for someone like me, almost always planning for and looking to the future, the past can be a very comforting harbour to return to. Knowing I can always look back and reflect on the good times, it also reminds me to move forward with a degree of confidence, knowing that the bad times are only transitory, and that ‘the Sun will come out tomorrow!’
This ability to remind myself where I came from allows me to focus on the true priorities, the important things for the future, not to get distracted by the extraneous, immaterial and ephemeral.
By Graeme Gordon