When Mom and Dad retired to Ireland from California in 1988, you can imagine how the weather affected my mother even though she was from Minnesota, that dastardly state of snow and coldfronts. But she soon became weather wise with pert and pungent axioms: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”, or “You get eleven weathers in a day here”. The latter usually referred to some version of fog or rainfall: Mist; mist interrupted by blazing, inexplicable sunshine; dense fog; soft rain (don’t even ask); hard rain; rain in buckets; rain and sunshine at the same time from a cloudless sky; grey rain; purple rain; cat-and-dog rain; and my absolute favorite, horizontal rain (I kid you not).
A word about two of the raining listings above: Once my friend Clare was driving in Dublin and came upon a stop sign. As she stopped, she noticed that the front of her car was in the sun while the back was in the rain. Once again, I kid you not.
Then there’s horizontal rain which I’ve never encountered anywhere else in my life but Ireland. This version of rainfall is complemented by wind. Huge, beating, bone-chilling wind. But there you go, looking out over a golf course, and Irish people couldn’t be bothered by the rain, vertical or otherwise; they’re strolling along, climbing out of sandpits, struggling up knolls, skirting newly-established lakes. And, in this particular situation, the wetness PIERCES all your clothing and body parts, even if you’re wearing whale skin, so there’s no escape whatsoever. No wonder they drink so much whiskey there, it’s the only thing that thaws flesh and bone back to a human (and humane) temperature.
But rain in Kenya has its own peculiarities, and we’ve been having a lot of it lately. While last fall the country was suffering gravely from too little rainfall, starving people and cattle, wiping out crops, now the wet of April and May is flooding regions in the south. “When will it stop?” we all ask.
In particular, I’m haunted by the Irish rain as I lived there for six years before moving to East Africa several months ago. There is a saving grace, however; during the daytime, there’s usually a respite of sun and heat. And once again, in a country far from my homeland in the States, I’ve encountered something I’ve never experienced before: rain so thick and steady and committed that it’s as if the sky was ladling it over us, over the red earth and the now-green hills of the Ngong.
It is usually at nighttime that we know to prepare for this full blast of the Kenyan skies. That is a blessing because truly, is there anything more cozy than lying awake at night and hearing that pelting drumbeat of rain on the roof? That’s what my son Tiger and I do. We lie snuggled together in my bed, listening to this drumming instead of our usual orchestra of tree hyrax screeching, monkeys playing, dogs barking. The weather sheets against the house; you can barely hear yourself talking.
I whisper instead to my son, who always seems to be listening, “Cloud soup.” He repeats it back to me in his silvery little voice, and we draw deeper under the covers as the sky weeps, only to smile in the morning with the lure of sunshine.