Moments of clarity
You find sublimity in the strangest places.
Yesterday, Sunday, I and our friend Alan got up at the crack of dawn (I say crack of dawn; this is Student Standard Time. About eight-thirty) and lugged two sports bags full of paraphernalia, half a dozen model weapons, and a chainmail shirt down to Meanwood Park to go LARPing. LARP, for those not in the know, is Live-Action Role Playing, where you dress up and go arse around in the woods hitting one another with foam swords. It’s essentially a cross between Dungeons & Dragons, orienteering, and amateur dramatics; in the words of the passer-by who stopped four of us to ask for a photo, “cross-country pantomime”. The group we go to meets one Sunday a month and plays two adventures, one before lunch, one after. The gang split into two teams, one of characters and one of monsters; the monsters play, as you might imagine, all the monsters, which involves a lot of running around behind the scenes and hasty costume changes. After lunch, the teams swap over. At the end of the day everyone regroups, trades stories of hilarious moments on- and backstage (as it were) and votes for the best performance on each team. Then everyone goes home, to showers, food, regaling one’s housemates with tales of derring-do, and bed.
Yesterday, the morning was beautiful. Gorgeous late-summer sun, cool but not cold, and only a little squelchy underfoot. I was monstering for the morning session and was, successively, a violently purple carnivorous flower, a priest of the god of madness who’d been at the Cake That Grants You Visions (represented, appropriately enough, by chocolate brownies . . .), a bandit, half of another carnivorous plant, the boss villain’s ex-wife (who exploded), and a generic mook from the Stormtrooper School of Rubbish Minions. A great time was had by all, with the standout moment being when Alan’s character went into full-on berserker frenzy for the first time and, having single-handedly taken out I think three monsters, turned on his friends (a virtuoso performance that earned him the bonus experience points for awesomeness). Then it was lunchtime. And during lunchtime, it began to rain.
Not just vague September drizzle. Rain. Serious rain. And it got worse. By the time the afternoon’s adventuring party had costumed up and been chivvied into some kind of order by the refs, it was pelting stair-rods. The ground was rapidly becoming a sodden morass where it was muddy and a slippery death-trap where it was covered in leaves. Very quickly, the party attained the kind of state of freezing saturation where you start to wonder if you will ever be dry or warm again, and I was seriously contemplating whether it was possible for chainmail to get waterlogged. Thankfully the actual rain stopped when we were about four encounters in, but it didn’t warm up.
And so our ragtag band we were slouching through the forest, wet, cold, miserable, even muddier than usual and with one eye permanently on the ground in case of mud-puddles or treacherous rocks, when we crested a little ridge, where the the land dropped away towards either the river or one of the major paths. And just at that moment, the sun came out. Every leaf on every plant was suddenly glittering. You could see the mist coming up off the ground between the trees, and shafts of sunlight falling through the branches. Everywhere the sound of dripping water. A thousand shades of green.
Everyone stopped, quite independently, just to gawp. One of the clerics, staying admirably in character at a moment when the game was the last thing on most of our minds, made a mystical sign and said softly “This is a sign, a blessing, from the Goddess Arianrhod.”
And I thought, You know, I can see what you mean.