The Rains Down in Africa

The rains came early this morning. They are different in the African Sahel – the arid shoreline that buttresses the jungles of the Dark Continent from the endless sandy ocean of the Sahara. They advance like an assault, first a solid wall of dark grey tinged with brown that is the sand kicked up by the gusts of wind, twirling playfully before it is silenced by the water. Birds jet erratically around the sky looking for a place to hide out the storm that they know is coming. Black plastic bags swirl in an African dance with the dust, the interplay of nature and humanity that is always so much more real here. The odors that precede the torrents are also human – the delicate aroma of burning wood that is the smell of Africa; only those who know Africa will understand. The pungent tang of garbage that is awakened by the winds. The sounds become blunted as if heard through a tunnel. The beeping of motorcycles as men and women dash home; the chirp of the birds.

Then everything becomes still – the pregnant silence of an audience right before the start of a concert. The winds do not blow; the birds have stopped their mad dash. The dark sky gives off a hint of dim yellow. The wait is interminable. Will the rains come? Will the hot land receive its brief respite?

Finally the first raindrop, heavy and round. It hits with force upon the zinc roof of the carport. ‘Plank’ then another ‘plank’ and it begins. The winds kick up again, flattening the banana trees and pushing the palm fronds about in the yard. The dust disappears and the yellows are gone – as is the dark grey, replaced by the lighter shades of the storm. Up above, thunder chases the lightning around the sky like a battle between great African gods. The water is coming in waves now, bursts of heavy rich drops exploding upon the ground. The grateful land seems to lap it up; the trees quiver a melody that joins with the clapping thunder and the whistling of the wind – the symphony of nature.
 
In their banco mud huts, the farmers of this land are happy. They have been waiting, and they drink their bitter-sweet hot tea as their spirits give thanks for the gift of heaven that will make another year of their hard lives possible. Their children – so many of them – huddle together under the zinc roofs, the rivulets of the water sometimes trickling into their huts but it doesn’t matter. The rain is not a nuisance, but a treasure and a reward. Outside in the fields, the rice and the corn and the potato plants open their delicate leaves to the blessing and the animals do not hide but frolic together in the delicious lightness of the nourishing rains.

At home, I sit on the covered porch in front of my house in my wooden rocking chair, my son in my lap. The lightning makes him nervous and he twists around to look at my face, making sure everything is still all right. Sometimes the gusts of wind blow a fine mist over him and he gasps with pleasure and then giggles, calling for more.
 
Then the storm slowly passes – Sahelian rains do not last long. The winds have died down and it is still once more; the angry storm gods that did battle over the city have moved on – defeated or victorious. It stays dark for some time, the ground eagerly soaking up every precious raindrop; it seems to know instinctively that it might be some time before the rains come again. Slowly, everything returns to normal – that’s the way it has always been here on the arid shores of the Sahara. The dry, followed by brief explosions of lifesaving water.

As I watch these rains, I issue a silent prayer to God that this year they will hold – that this year will be a good year for a people so desperate for something to finally go their way.
 
Joel D. Hirst is a novelist, author of “The Lieutenant of San Porfirio: Cronicle of a Bolivarian Revolution

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About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright, author of the recently released novel "Lords of Misrule" about jihad in the Sahara. Joel has also written "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio".
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One Response to The Rains Down in Africa

  1. Pingback: The Monsoons in Arizona: And Immortality | Joel D. Hirst's Blog

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