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.

And then.

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 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.


tam said...

ah my dear sister you have said it so exactly as it is. Eat a mango for me, very very slowly.

Chimera said...

Thanks so much for that exquisite description. The hairs on my neck stand up in anticipation of the storm...Lorday i miss the rains with the mud and the overflowing sewers and the mould.
Here grey, rust brown and neither one thing nor t'other. It has no spunk this british weather. (Having said that there are gales predicted this weekend. Yeahhhaaa!)
T xx

family affairs said...

Wonderfully evocative.....Lx

Jeannie said...

Ah, what a brilliant post. I felt like I was there. Thank you. said...

perfect. absolutely perfect.

Val said...

yeehah - nothing like first rains hey? fabulous description..enjoy - dont get malaria even once though ok? love to all x

Dumdad said...

What a great post - I could feel the dryness and then the wetness and the rain invading the house.

Angela said...

November is a wishy-washy month here. Fog in the morning, neither cold nor warm, darkness sets in early, drizzling rain - not even candle- and Christmas baking time yet. What a difference in your description! The pure LIFE and EXCITEMENT! Wonderful! And walk in a mosquito net at all times! Take care!

Lori ann said...

It sounds like feast or famine, but that's the way it is with alot of things I think. Beautiful post Miranda, I hope the rain comes soon, but not too much.

Reya Mellicker said...

May all your thirsts be quenched.

Weather is so powerful. I love/hate weather. I worship the weather, plead with it, shout at it ... The weather is like a big brother or sister, all powerful, capricious, moody.

I think of the weather as the emotional body of the earth.

Thank you for this!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Stunning description and wonderfully evocative writing! Popped over from Val's place. Down here on the southern tip of Africa with our much milder Mediterranean climate, we're spared so much of what the rest of Africa experiences by way of weather and it's vagaries.

spacedlaw said...

Beautifully evoked.
How clever of the trees for knowing that rain is just about to come and making the effort of pushing those slender leaves out.

Mud in the City said...

Beautiful description!

And please don't wish for a European autumn. Dark, dank, mizzerly drizzle and closed, cold faces. Charmless.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Enjoyable post, thought-provoking words. Makes one think our English weather isn't that bad after all!

CJ xx

Janelle said...

its raining here too. no more haboub dust storms. phew. only lightening packed ones...mild still. really not tempting anyone or anything..especially not living up here..ohhhhhh nooooooo. kitty is well and FAT and def mama's pet! outrageous really. xx j

Anonymous said...

Lucky you for being there - England autumn is all golden and red and rusty -AMAZING when the sun shines and so crap when the wind and rain pummell us to a soggy mess! love your words. good on you xx

Ernest de Cugnac said...

Ah, temperatures of 40 C plus. You have to feel it to believe it. It probably gets that hot in Spain, but very seldom in these parts. (I've had it in Calcutta and Pmburg though).

Miranda said...

Ernest - you're quite right. Every year I forget just how hot that actually is.

Anonymous - thanks for kind words. I've never seen an English Autumn. Or summer. Only dead of winter. One day....

J- ah, look forward to seeing the kitty. Hope he remembers me. I MISS you and hope to see you before you come over here??

Crystal Jigsaw - indeed, would love to experience a 4 season year, just once. I only know rainy season and dry season

Mud - haha! Sounds interesting!

Spacedlaw - thanks. Yes, it amazes me every year, so clever.

Absolute Vanilla - thanks for the visit. I pop over to your place every now and then (great blog) but am very silent. Will comment next time!

Reya - I love that! So true

Lori Ann - indeed. Thanks for the visit!

Geli - walk in a mosquito net at all times - good idea!! I REFUSE to get malaria ever again!

Dumdad - thanks. Yes that wetness invading the house. Aish!

Val - you know it. And yes. No. More. Malaria.

Reluctant Memsahib - wow, high praise indeed. Thanks!

Jeannie - thanks!

Lulu - thanks to you too! Been out of the loop, must go over and catch up on YOUR life!

Tanvi - heh heh. Did the gale come??

Tam - I did better than that. I ate a whole sack full....