Rainy season begins

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.


“I was also caught by absence in all its forms.”

—  Paul Éluard


The sliding wave

There are two bowls of green apples on the kitchen table, unreflecting solidity of that green. A sparrow pecking at  crumbs on the brickwork  below the doorstep.  The grey morning, low cloud settling down on the granite mountain slopes, rumbling of trailers heavy with harvested fruit.


To start off the week I’m busy stewing pitted prunes for the neighbour’s daughter who is  wheelchair-bound. Peristaltic encouragement, she mutters enigmatically.

Samuel Beckett, from the third volume of his letters:

“the exercise-book that opens like a door and lets me far down into the now friendly dark.”


In dreams I am standing in a rooftop garden in Tokyo, a tiled palazzo ornamented with ceramic cats and cloud-sculpted bonsai. If I look out and down, I see nothing but smog, a stinging veil of acrid density. The cloud shapes all around me loosen and drift, the  whiteness  becomes more impenetrable and I hear temple bells distorted, as if by the roaring surf of the sea. The tides wash up and run back on the fine  sand under my bare feet. Those cats are now carved griffins  from volcanic rock, grimacing with igneous force and damp from sea spray. I find an envelope addressed to my mother on the  bare shoreline, but the blue inks have dissolved. Still, staring at the sodden envelope, crumpled, illegible, awash with smeared calligraphy, I  am happy because the clouds are parting. Ocean or city will appear at any moment. My mother is dead. I cannot pass on any messages or intercede — in the dream I know this quite well  and yet it is hard to toss the envelope back into the sliding wave.

To stay with what is given, what is allotted to us.