Waiting for the Storm

Towards afternoon the sky marbled with clouds, ripped by titanic winds from a sullen mass on the northern horizon. Around me, gusts tugged angrily at shrubs and trees. It looked like rain; serious rain, sometime during the coming dark hours.

It was lion country and I should have a fire, and I did gather a pile of wood, but lighting it seemed pointless. So I stretched the tarpaulin and secured it as best I could, and readied another to pull over the load bin. Come bed time, I would sling the hammock lengthwise, close to the apex, and hopefully that would be good enough to stay dry.

By the time I was done, the light was fading. The wind had calmed, as was its habit at sunset. It would probably rise to full fury later, with the coming storm, but now a calmness so vast that it was beyond the reach of the mind settled over the bush.  It was time to be quiet and sip some wine and gaze out over the emptiness of the dry pan that stretched away northwards to a blotted pencil line of trees, and dream.

A procession of giraffes nodded stately across the horizon, heading for the waterhole and a final drink before darkness.  At the edge of the pan, so far that I had to steady the binoculars to make them out, a small herd of red hartebeest huddled, prepared, as best they could in their chosen open space, against the storm and the perils of the night.

It was quiet, absolutely quiet, but I sensed things going on around me, silent and unseen, yet vitally frothing. The very ether was electric with expectation. Yes, every cell in every living thing already knew about the coming storm. They listened, trembling, for its far-off rumble, eager for its rough tumble and tear and its strafing torrents. They will endure it, for the joy of the soaking rain.

I let my thoughts go free. They probed and ran and walked and leaped where they would: What life bloomed now, at this very moment, triggered by the coming rain? What life changed, and how, or vitally touched other life, because of it? Was it already raining, far, many, many miles to the north? How did those gigantic forces at work, conspire to bring the rain here, to this remote spot, where no man could know of its coming? They stilled at only one certainty: they could fathom but a minute fragment of the mysteries, from the nano scale to the cosmopolitan, unfolding around me.

The darkness began to deepen and night sounds drifted in. Prudence urged, “Move closer to the vehicle. It is safer.” But the moment demanded lingering. The world faded to an even dark grey, milkier above the line of the horizon. Angry glows climbed ever higher up the northern sky, sighing in  slow-exhaled breaths.

It was time to get something to eat and make final preparations before the storm hit.  It was going to be a grand show, but not one to face totally exposed.

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