I can lie in bed for hours at night listening to the rain falling, that heavy water crashing down in cloudburst after cloudburst, rain hammering into baked earth, bleached grasses, sluicing down dusty leaves and bark. Yesterday it was humid and clouds massed over the valley all afternoon, towards dusk a coppery sky and electricity in the air like burning wires. Then, after dark, the storm broke.
Lying under the thin linen sheet, I remember the monsoons of my childhood in East Africa, the palm trees frenetic, tall elephant grasses bent almost horizontal with the force of the wind and rain. This is different, the start to the winter rains in the Cape, night rainfalls marking the end of summer drought and another season. In the chaotic melee of rain drowning out the sounds of the night, there is something reassuring, signalling a watery green renaissance for the garden, the dead fields and parched trees. And I in my bed, safe behind thick walls and under the tiled roof. But also wrapped in rain, the sweet melancholy memories of rain falling outside the room where I sleep, as a child or young woman, alone or in love, lying awake and listening to the muffled rushing of rain in pine forests, rain splashing onto banana leaves or the sound of the river roaring nearby, swollen by rain and rising in the night, threatening flood. The flash-floods defacing arid landscapes in Africa, the rain that comes too late and too unstoppably. The woman who lets loose her torrential weeping in the hotel room as the storm gathers outside. The child smiling to herself in the dark, hearing the rain sing like a friend. The rain sufficient unto itself, the long awaited rain finally here. The immensity of rain at which we throw our desire to make meaning, the falling rain that blurs the figures of identity and alterity.
And when I woke this morning, the sun was breaking through clouds, everything smelling sweet and fresh washed clean as a toddler’s dirty face. We are always starting over in some sense, waking to difference, a change in direction, a new road beckoning between mountains or some inner impulse that shakes us out of routine.
In the news, thinking about it as I shake tap water from a bunch of watercress, the terror of a passenger airbus smashing into a mountain ravine in the Alps, high above the snow line. Statues of the old colonial rogue Cecil John Rhodes toppling in Cape Town and Durban, in England the reburial of the skeleton of King Richard III who died after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, while here and now US war planes began strikes on ISIS in Tikrit. Another day filled with the issues of 2015 — and a century ago today, troop ships filled with wounded and dying men were returning from the failed attack on the Dardanelles. A German U-boat had sunk a merchant vessel named the Medea. The First World War well into its second year.
— Paul Éluard