8 = Water

On the path to Kaieteur Falls, Guyana, my parents are surrounded by bromeliads.

On the path to Kaieteur Falls, Guyana, my parents are surrounded by bromeliads.

Water of life. Inland, that water jammed up the land with every kind of life. Even the Rupununi savannah had its watery moments when flat grasslands turned, for awhile, to vast deceptive lakes. Jungles dripped dense, rain fell down and then steamed up, rivers flowed as wide as seas, and little golden frogs lived out their lives in puddles caught between the bromeliad’s leaves.

—The Water Here is Never Blue

On this summer day, in Montreal, the heat and humidity began high at dawn and thickened through the day. Just now, at 5:30, the weather broke in a way that reminds me of Guyana and of Timor too. It reminds me of every  tropical place I have been when a monsoon hit.

All day the air is still, but then the wind abruptly rises, trees flail and cats run home. The house is clapped in sudden dark, and you might think that night has leapt forward a few hours in time. But that’s not it. The clouds have only gathered, thick and grey, miles thick and filled with rain, blocking out the sunlight that has beat upon the city all day long. And then the rain. On these days even here in Montreal it “falls too thick to see across the road, and all you [can] do [is] laugh with the exuberance of water, turn your face up and count the seconds till de rain mek yuh whole skin soak.”

Montreal storms beat on the front of my house where the second storey is a wall of six glass doors. The house is full of summer heat. Even shadowed closets are oppressive. I want the wind to wash it out, but if I let it, if I don’t close those doors, that wind will push the rain ten feet into the bedrooms and my office, soaking carpets, drenching floors, throwing papers into chaos, knocking pictures off the walls. On these days I feel like a character from Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping whose home filled up with leaves swept in through always open windows. I am torn between the pull of propriety and the desire to have that air rush its way right through my home.


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