Friday, November 7, 2008
There is a change that happens here every year that is so determined, and so sudden that if you slept too long you’d miss it. And it is so ingrained in my soul that as soon as I stepped off the plane yesterday I nearly cried. In October it is hot. Hot.
And dry. The cicadas play as if for the London Philharmonic, to the extent that in some patches of thick mopani woodland (such as where our little family village is) you have to shout above the noise. And your s’s cannot be heard.
And everything is brown. And dusty. And when the wind blows it’s that convection-oven-heat that you cannot escape from. 40 plus degrees Celsius.
The trees are all bare, reaching up for the sky praying for rain. The animals, the insects, everything seems to be holding their breath. Waiting for those first big fat happy singing raindrops to spatter down onto the dusty earth.
At night you have to sleep with a wet chitenje cloth over you and within seven minutes its dry-season-leaf dry again.
And everything shimmers. Mirages everywhere. By 6 in the morning it is scorching, animal bones seem to whiten and desiccate within hours.
The trees dream up some moisture from somewhere and suddenly, unexpectedly (even though you know this is coming) they sprout the greenest freshest cutest little transparent looking leaves you’ve ever seen (except last rains, of course). Within days, like whispered gossip, word has got out and almost all the trees are proudly wearing their new lingerie – see through, sexy and oh so tantalizing.
You start to hear all the different bird-calls. The migrants. Distinct, rainy season birds. That sound just opens up my heart, dissolves it like a sunny blue sky in the winter.
And then the air changes viscosity. And the bated breath-ness tension in the air hovers.
And then she comes. That first storm. Never just a sprinkling, a spitting. Always a massive theatre production – a musical – the black black backdrop, punctuated by thunder, lightening, towering clouds.
And the clouds tip upside down and dump their heavy load.
And this makes my heart sing.
Until February comes along and we’ve had three months of solid monsoon type rain. The mud is ankle deep, every little scratch turns septic, you’ve had malaria 4 times already. The rain blows sideways and comes into your house, soaking your bed. The blinds get blown off the windows so your house is permanently drenched. Everything is mouldy; nothing dries.
And then you dream of a gentle European spring with gamboling lambs and pretty bluebells nodding in the gentle breeze.