Storm clouds and memories


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After living many years of my life in southern Africa, there was one thing I missed while living in the Middle East; the monstrous, bottom-heavy purple-blue thunderheads that would appear on the horizon, bellies heavy with the promise of rain for the parched red-brown soil beneath.

In my parents house on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, our house was perched high up on a hill in Umwinsidale, on a clear day, I could almost see all the way east to the hills of neighboring Mozambique.

You knew when the rain was coming.

One by one the rows of hazy hills would disappear, as if you were shortsighted and had dropped your glasses. As the walls of water hit the second-last hill to the house, everyone would erupt into mad panic – rushing to get the horses, goats – and our two rather strange pet pigs – into the stables from their fields, battening down the poultry house doors, hopefully stopping the chickens, ducks, and geese from either being blown away, or getting all soggy and wet.

Our house had big bay windows that looked over the lush emerald lawn onto the hills, the windows were rapidly closed as the storm approached, and I would wait.

The skies used to get darker and darker, the clouds advancing, ominous, blocking out the sun, turning the inside of the house inky black (because pretty much as standard the power would turn off). The smell of the rain was driven before the storm clouds; the sulphur of lightning – the earthy-sharp scent of wet earth.

The birds, silent.

I would sit at that window waiting for the storm to hit, watch as the end of the garden disappeared into the rain, the windows, vibrating with the tumult of the gathering wind, blocked by the house, a structure so much less powerful than itself.

Water came down like someone in the clouds had upturned a bucket, dumping several months-worth of rain in but a few minutes.

Once the rain had fallen the smell of newly wet earth, and the sounds of the birds and insects chirping and tweeting their joy at the water droplets, and the piles of the somehow helpless flying ants, and their detached wings – meant that drought was pushed back, just a little.

Just for a while.

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