There are many great things about living in the mountains of the Pyrenees, but the weather is not necessarily one of them. It is currently the middle of July, and, as I sit here writing this, the view from my window is of trees hazily obscured by a shroud of thick rain. The sky is a grey carpet of low cloud, omitting what feels like maybe 70% of the light from the Sun. The temperature is hovering around 10 degrees Celsius, and with the wind was enough to have me bundled up in fleece and down jacket as I shuffled along under my umbrella on the morning dog walk.
It isn’t always like this, but it is to a surprising degree. My fear with living so far south was that the summers would cook me alive, my pale English skin ripening like a juicy apple under the searing rays. Rumo, too, struggles with the heat, his shiny black coat a magnet for the Sun’s warmth, meaning that after five or ten minutes sunbathing he becomes almost too hot to touch. His problems are exacerbated by a distinct lack of common sense. As the owner of a slightly manic (at times) dog, I have watched my fair share of Youtube dog training videos. And, I’m afraid that Cesar Milan’s claim that dogs know their own limitations is just not true, especially with Rumo.
If there is fun to be had, and a ball to chase, he will keep going until he literally can no longer walk. And I mean literally. This is a dog that we once took to a tennis court, and who chased the ball back and forth so incessantly that he ripped the skin off the pads on all four of his feet, leaving a bloody trail of paw prints behind him. A dog who, on multiple occasions, has got so hot and worn out that his back legs go stiff and he starts woozily stumbling around like a drunken sailor until we can massage them back into action. So, to be honest, the lack of scorching hot days here is not necessarily such a bad thing.
But, at the same time, it’s just hard to be in a good mood when the skies are grey and you can’t go outside without getting soaked to the skin, or when the low clouds roll in and our view down the valley disappears altogether, replaced with the blank nothingness of fog. It’s easy at these times to feel like a prisoner, stuck inside one’s house, able to see outside to the delights of the garden and the surrounding terrain but unable, or unwilling, to go out and enjoy them. And we’ve noticed that we tend to compound this misery by thinking that dull, grey days are a great opportunity to do dull, grey jobs such as hoovering, or computer-based life admin. Thus, doubling down on the dull, greyness of life we find ourselves thoroughly miserable and dreaming of sunny days on the beach. Even, *gasp*, wondering what the weather might be like back in England.
However, there is another way. One of the best things about having a dog is that it forces you outside every single day, rain or shine. You may be able to resign yourself to moping around, looking at your emails, and eating chocolate as if it might make you happy, but your dog is not. Thus, every morning we find ourselves outside in the elements, no matter how inviting it may seem, and, sometimes, it’s great. Sometimes, when the clouds descend the forest becomes a magical realm, tall trunks and spindly branches loom out of the fog, like half-hidden monoliths and statues. Leafy boughs and mossy roots look like they could sprout færies, pixies, or sprites. You become lost in a world of mystery and surprise. In fact, even the rain can be a source of joy sometimes.
Just the other day, we set off from the house on a joint run / bike ride, Zoë and Rumo running, me on the bike, because, for some reason unfathomable to me, my lower body cannot cope with the rigours of running without becoming incredibly tight, painful, and immobile for weeks to come. Anyway, there we were making our way down the road towards the grassy paths we intended to take when the first misty droplets started to fall onto our un-waterproofed selves. We paused and looked at each other, “Here we go again!” running through our minds. But, when Z asked if I thought we should turn back, for some reason I said no. Realistically, this was mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to go back to the house and therefore had convinced myself that it wouldn’t really start raining, not properly. It did. Ten minutes later we were atop the hill that looks out over the village, taking temporary refuge in a pagoda that perches there. The prognosis was bad, the rain seemed to have set it, now should we turn back?
We didn’t. For some reason this morning, being out in the rain just felt right, and later as we careened downhill on a rocky forest track we whooped for joy. Our clothes were saturated and sticking to the skin of our backs, hair was sopping wet, dripping fresh cool rain water ran into our eyes. Z had her glasses in her hand, her naturally faulty eyesight deemed better than the water spattered version of the world offered by the wiper-less glass lenses. Even Rumo, who, to be honest, is not always a fan of getting rained on, seemed to be getting into the spirit of it, running ahead before doubling back to check on us, painfully slow, humans.
As we made it out of the woods and started back on the road towards home the cold of the persistent rain started to set in, seeping into my hands on the slickened handlebars and into my thighs and back under my soaked garments. As soon as we got home we stripped out of everything, hung it up to dry, and jumped into nice warm showers. But that’s the thing about rain, as long as you can get home soon and know that you have warm showers and dry clothes waiting for you, getting the occasional drenching can be a hell of a lot of fun, and certainly beats doing the hoovering.