It’s raining again. I’m no longer surprised when it does. For the last week and a half, the sky has cracked itself open, without warning, so often that I stopped keeping track. I’m starting to think the world has forgotten it’s supposed to be summer.
It started the day I left home. And fine, I’ll admit it felt fitting at the time. I’d spent the previous week packing 15 years of my family’s memories into boxes, bidding farewell to furniture and friends and the flowers I’d never see bloom again. There was barely time to breathe, let alone check to see how the sky was feeling.
Only when we pulled out of the garage at 2 p.m., the car occupied by two overly-excited dogs, a semi-terrified ginger cat, bags, books, and other things-we-absolutely-couldn’t-leave-behind, did I notice the splattering on the window.
Fitting, I thought, as we pulled away from the home that was no longer ours. It’s like the sky is crying for us.
Four hours later, on arrival at my grandmother’s house (a kind of three-month pit-stop before we moved to our final destination), darkness was embracing the sky, and my sneakers were sinking into the sodden lawn. We hurried to unpack, worried the big, fat clouds that’d followed us from Cape Town would release onto our shoulders.
Muddy paw prints streaked through the hallways, Decca the cat had disappeared under a bed, and my brothers were hot on my heels as we unpacked: “Did you bring the yoga ball I reminded you about?” “Where should I put this bag?” “Have you seen the cupcakes we made?” “Do you want one?” “Can I have one?” “Do you know where we put book four of the Percy Jackson series?”
I was gathering all evidence that I’d spent a sixth of my day in the car – a half-eaten packet of Curlywurly Squirlies, a pillow, tangled earphones, my current read, a box of dog treats – when, not for the first time that day, the sky split and poured down around us. I dashed for cover, then to my room, noticing that I’d left the backdoor open and accidentally invited the onslaught of rain inside. Fringe a mess, brain frazzled, too many things still to do before I could sit down, I pulled the door shut, locked the rain out, and tried to catch my breath.
I woke to applause the next day. The kind of fabricated cheering you hear on a sitcom when a character makes a joke. Too thunderous; too much; for far too long. I realised pretty quickly that, of course, it wasn’t applause. It was just the rain against the roof. A noise – like the chirping birds and hum of the geyser and rustle of the wind through the house – that my brain hadn’t learned to tune out yet.
After a disorientated rendition of what was usually a seamless morning routine, I headed to the kitchen in search of a cup of comfort. But we didn’t have coffee beans.
Except that we did have beans. At least, we did when I made myself a cup of coffee the morning before – in a kitchen 350km away.
“We have instant coffee,” my grandmother offered.
It was a kind gesture, but not one I could accept.
Because sure, I wanted caffeine. But I also wanted something else. Something more.
Every morning, when I brew a cup, I think of nothing else. My DeLonghi machine gurgles as it comes alive, crunches as it grinds the perfect measure of beans, drip, drip, drips the strong coffee into a mug I’ll soon hold and savour — even if it’s only for a few minutes — before, inevitably, I set the cup down and dive into the rest of my day.
It’s a simple thing, to make a cup of coffee, but it’s a momentary stillness that sets up my day in a big way.
Outside, the rain was still coming down. But beans had to be bought. So, I had to go out. Which I did — hurriedly. Hood up, eyes down, sneakers side-stepping puddles.
That’s how I spent the next few days: Rushing out of the rain whenever it appeared; yanking laundry from the line when unexpected showers attacked; wondering mildly if the weather apps here were ever right.
On a walk a few days later, when the blue, blue sky began to cry, I found myself frowning up at the cloudlessness above my head. Where did you come from?
It’s called a sunshower when rain falls while the sun shines. In South Africa, in English, we call it a “monkey’s wedding” which is originally translated from Zulu – umshado wezinkawu: a wedding for monkeys. Across the world, different animals get married when this phenomenon takes place. In Sudan, a donkey and a monkey. In Iran, jackals. In Morocco, wolves. It’s pretty rare to experience a monkey’s wedding.
It feels magical.
For years, I’ve been fascinated by how different cultures interpret a sunshower. But in my haste to get back, I’d forgotten to enjoy it. At least until I rounded the bend and saw my youngest brother standing on the front lawn, head tilted back to look up at the sky, hands outstretched to catch the water from nowhere.
He was smiling so wide I stopped walking.
Young children are like that. When it rains, they don’t feel the need to run, to hide, to take cover. Often, they want to go out into it. They want to put on their wellington boots and splash in puddles. They want to dive into the pool as the rain makes ripples around them. They want to grab a coat and an umbrella and walk through the garden.
They’re fascinated. Drenched from head to toe, children are often undampened by the rain.
It’s a shame, that as we grow up, we lose that sense of wonder.
When did I grow up? When did I become the sort of person who rushed out of the rain?
Standing under the bright sunny sky, I tugged my hood off, tilted my face up to mimic my brother, and let the droplets kiss my cheeks.
It’s raining again. I’m no longer surprised when it does.
At the sight of droplets racing down my window, I get up and go outside. I’m not as excited as my youngest brother, can’t force myself not to think about the laundry that needs to be taken in or the muddy paw prints I’ll have to clean off the floors, but I like to stretch my hands out, let the drops drum against my skin, form puddles in my palms.
It’s a beautiful thing, not to be rushing out of the rain.
(Art: Night Patterns by Jennifer Diehl.)