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Water Fall

We have months of drought, when the earth bakes and cracks. The grass stops growing, turns pale and dry. When the rain comes it falls with an explosive reaction, raising up dust from barren fields and steam from the hot tar macadam until a mist settles over all. The world turns green.

There is a certain Saturday morning during a dry spell that I remember from my childhood. Sitting at the breakfast table with my mother, we felt an atmospheric shift of high pressure to low. The sky darkened and we heard the first heavy drops approaching, shaking leaves, hammering earth and finally deafening us when the deluge assaulted our galvanized tin roof.

“Quickly, get the pots and pans!” my mother shouted to be heard above the rain. We left the food on the table and rushed to where the gutters over poured long, streaming chains of water. We filled pots, pans and buckets and emptied them into the spouts that lead to the ancient, almost empty, round stone cistern.

In those days Hermitage was beyond reach of the government water mains. Our entire supply was the water our cistern held. We learnt to conserve what we had and to gather what we could. I didn’t know how anxious the drought had made my mother, I thought filling buckets was just a game. It wasn’t until many years later did she tell me that buying a truckload of water was a hard expense to bear.

The roof in our old house leaked at first because the ceiling boards had shrunk, but when the drips and the leaks stopped we knew the rain would last, there was enough moisture in the air to swell the dried out timbers of the house. Even the house had come to life, just like the grass, the flowers and the garden.

Had this happened during the week, school would have been canceled for the day. In Nevis, there is a strong aversion to rainfall. Folks say it brings cold and chills, even sickness and death. My mother didn’t think so. She loved hope and change, which is what this rain meant to us.

It kept raining all that day and we watched contentedly as the cistern kept filling. We ran through the garden, splashing in the puddles that had become oceans of play. After a few hours the shallow mountain ravines we call ghauts filled with water, like little rivers, running down to the sea, and it rained so long they kept running for a week after the rain had stopped.

My mother’s little Pink House is next to one of those ghauts. She stays in her bed asleep now and I like to sit beside her and remember that Saturday we played in the rain together and how for the entire week afterward, as long as the ghauts ran, she played with me in those mountain streams, finding stepping stones and waterfalls and pools large enough for us to bath.

I like the rain.

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Nevis was very fortunate, we suffered minimal damage. The ancient saman tree in the town square was blown over, a few other trees have been lost and our beaches have been strangely rearranged but it is nothing that can’t be repaired with time and tide. With village names like Hardtimes and Burden Pasture, Nevis has known many challenges.We are not strangers to the storm.

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