What's in a raindrop?

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Posted on December 4, 2015

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Rain rain and more rain. With all the rain we’ve been having in the last weeks in Cumbria, we thought it might be worth sharing a blog post from the past, something written back in 2012 on an old and outdated somewhere nowhere website. In Cumbria it’s not unusual for it to rain, but at times like recent weeks when the rain settles in to become part of the air, every day and every night, it becomes more of a talking point. This blog post was written in summer, but much of it rings true for these short wet wintery days.


It has been raining a lot in Cumbria over the last week. The fields have been soaked (the hay hasn’t been cut) the garden lupins have been trampled and the roads have been awash. Yesterday the A69 at Haltwhistle was transformed from a road into a muddy river in front of my eyes as a flash flood raged down the hillside. Driving through it was like ploughing through an ocean of hot chocolate, with the added thrill of waves forced over the bonnet by passing trucks. Midsummer was wet, and every day since it has been necessary to put on full waterproofs.


Naturally, rain has been on my mind a lot of the time! And a question came up for me ... What’s in a Rain Drop? I asked around, put the question out on Facebook, and discussions flowed.

Technically speaking, inside a rain drop is a tiny speck of dust – since every rain drop can only exist with something at its centre for the water to adhere to. Also, technically speaking, a rain drop isn’t ‘tear-drop’ shaped: it’s perfectly spherical. There’s a simple and profound beauty in that.

Beyond technicalities, a rain drop, others have said, contains the nectar of life. It contains the whole world, reflected, and upside down. It holds rainbows.

And there’s potential in a raindrop. One drop resting on a clover leaf; light as a feather. With a burst of sunlight it may reflect – and momentarily hold – an entire meadow, the entire sky; with continued rain it may merge, meet, attract other water drops, seep into the earth, find its way to the watercourse, join a river, force a flood.

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And somewhere in there, from another; perspective, there’s frustration: another drop, in another day of rain, heavy and persistent enough to flatten fields of grass, dampen human spirits, quieten insect flight, force butterflies into hiding, prevent birds feeding.  More sinister than that, there is the power of water to smother, to rush, to destroy.

It reminds us of the way that all things are connected - from a lone raindrop to the crises of refugees fleeing drought-riven areas, from a slow sloth in a humid forest to a polluted river, from a rainbow to a city thick with smog - and that every little, or big thing, we do as humans, impacts the world around us.

All this and so much more, in a single raindrop. Each tiny wet package holds water recycled so many times from this blue planet that it might contain echoes of history much older than any of us can imagine. Life recycled.

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When it comes down to the mundane matters of daily life here in Cumbria though, and I’m ready to head out of the door, the simplest answer to ‘What’s in a raindrop?’ is: Water. My coat is permanently waiting, and my shoes lined up to dry, in a sort of rotation, but for a while, it seems, the only footwear for me is wellies, or nothing.

Postscript: Last week on an Arvon Course in Lumb Bank, a fellow poet wrote about water and the way that a droplet of water in the sea may stay there for 3000 years before being recycled.



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