A large part of the reason that we decided to leave Ireland was because we are outdoors people and we found the weather there to be changing for the worse over recent years. Having spent a lot of money and time creating a beautiful patio area outside our house there, we noticed that in 2016 we were actually only able to spend about 10 days throughout the whole year sitting in it because of the poor weather conditions. The part of Co. Down where we lived also seemed to be getting wetter and wetter and the seasons were becoming less defined every year. Despite Mr Trump’s assertion that climate change doesn’t exist, the long hot Irish summers of my childhood are definitely a thing of the past.
We were both craving more daylight, more sunshine and more vitamin D, especially during the long winter months which were always a bit of a struggle for me. So before we made our decision to move, Eoin did extensive research of weather patterns in different parts of SW France. Even within the Dordogne there are quite different conditions in various areas. We finally settled on a specific area which we loved and which also has great weather and we have been living nearby since the start of October.
Locals told us stories of eating Christmas dinner out in the garden some years. They also told us that February and May are usually the wettest months but that the seasons are well defined and that we will be able to spend most of our time outdoors for about 8 months of the year. It sounded like heaven to us!
And yet, in recent weeks all the locals are talking about is “le temps exceptionnel” (the exceptional weather) and they don’t mean exceptionally good! It honestly feels as if it has hardly stopped raining here since the start of November. Our daily walks with the dogs across the vineyards and through the forests find us all returning covered in mud and often soaking. Yesterday was so wet and wild that the dogs didn’t even want to go out to the toilet! So, for the first day since we left Ireland, we didn’t get any exercise or fresh air. The Dordogne river is higher than people have seen it for nearly two decades and the land is completely saturated.
This photo looks lovely until you realise that is actually an image of the picnic area and car park by the river in Limeuil which has been under water for the last few weeks. A friend here told me on Monday that 10 of their 12 acres of riverside land are now under water. We haven’t been able to sit outside once in nearly two months now and whilst it is milder than Ireland, the damp conditions mean that we are lighting a fire every day. This was not what I had visualised for my new life in France! I hope that we didn’t bring the Irish weather with us.
When I woke up this morning to the sound of more rain, more muddy dog paw prints to mop up and the prospect of another wet walk, I have to say that my spirit was struggling. My mood was low and I was aware of feeling frustration, disappointment and a tinge of despondency. But one of the great things about our two dogs is that they love their exercise and Delilah especially gets very jittery if she doesn’t get at least 4 kilometres a day (plus her daily deer chase which she loves in the Dordogne!). So, with great reluctance, I hauled myself out of bed, put on my walking gear and we headed out.
As I walked along I started to enquire into my low mood and what it was really about. I quickly realised that a lot of it was coming from non-acceptance of the weather! Quite simply, my mind was telling me that it SHOULD be different. It SHOULD be brighter and drier and everything should be looking prettier. I SHOULD be able to go out for the 10+ kms hikes which I want to without getting soaked. I noticed that I was actually being impatient with the weather in much the same way as I wanted 1 March to hurry up and come so that we can move into our new house and I wanted spring to hurry up and arrive and for these wet conditions to pass. How insane is that? It is incredible what our thoughts can do to our moods. The word SHOULD is usually a clear indicator of when we are in a state of resistance or non-acceptance.
The practice of acceptance has been hugely transformative in my life over the last decade. The beauty of this process of acceptance is that you can apply it to any aspect of your life with which you wish to make peace. For me this practice is epitomised by the Serenity Prayer –
“Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
As I continued to walk through the muddy forest, I realised that I cannot change the weather so instead I asked for the serenity to accept it and my self-inquiry turned more toward what I CAN change about the current situation. I soon remembered that I have always struggle a little with low mood in January and February in Ireland and that a lot of that, I believe, came from insufficient Vitamin D which is a major cause of seasonal mood disorders. Even though I am now living in France, the fact that the weather has been so bad means that there is every likelihood that my body is struggling the same way. OK, that is something that I have the power and the courage to change – buy some high dosage Vitamin D, eat more salmon, tuna, mackerel and eggs over the next few weeks. Great – a simple action step and almost immediately I could feel my energy lifting towards optimism. I also decided to book in for a ‘spring cleaning’ healing session with a local energy healer. This is to help prepare my inner ground for all the new growth which is going to happen in the spring in much the way that this rain is nurturing the growth which we cannot see under the soil.
As this thought process unfolded, I started to walk more mindfully and to really take in the landscape around me for the next few kilometres. “Is all this rain a positive thing for the land?” I found myself asking. Considering it is normally so dry here, maybe the earth is really enjoying this long drink! Then I was reminded that in less than 6 months the muddy, seemingly barren field which I was walking alongside will be a mass of bright yellow sunflowers smiling at me as I experienced here last July whilst house-sitting in the area.
The more closely I looked at my surroundings and started to take photographs, the more I began to see small, almost imperceptible signs of spring all around me – seedlings starting to push up through the dead leaves, bulbs appearing and even some white blossoms. Of course, these signs had been there at the start of my walk but I was so caught up in the grumbling and moaning in my mind that I had been blind to them.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Dr Wayne Dyer
While the dogs enjoyed a bit of fun in the overflowing stream I was reminded that everything is happening just as it is meant to and there is absolutely no point in me making myself miserable by wanting things to be different or for wishing that time would speed up. If I can just allow myself the serenity of accepting the reality of what is here and now instead of wishing for something different, to find the courage to change what I can (my thoughts being a good starting point!) and to remember that EVERYTHING belongs, then my lived experience of this moment is so much more enjoyable and easier.
Amazing what transformation can happen on a wet, winter walk with the pups!!