“I can’t stand the rain against my window, bringing back sweet
memories.” - Tina Turner
“Rain is falling” is the most poetic phrase in our local parlance.
As I write this, on this inky dark night, a windy tropical downpour drums
a cool tune, a mild breeze puffs out the curtains, carries smells of sweet
damp earth, lime leaves and crushed flowers.
“Rain is falling” is evocative of everything from a torrent to misty
drizzle. It conjures up afternoons reading in bed on old soft cotton
sheets and mushy pillows, with one hand cupped around warm indulgent
drinks: brandy and warm water, coffee and cream, hot chocolate, while the
rain drums on galvanised roofs, drips off pipes, drenches trees. It’s
about the way fat individual drops line up along telephone lines, wobble
and quiver and quickly fall with the speed of light. It’s about the
orchestra of music it creates: rattles on
cement, base drums on galvanize, chac chacs on plants, a soft hum
on delicate stalks and petals.
It’s occasionally accompanied by the whip and crack of thunder, and
the swish of tyres on wet roads. It’s about hypnosis, as you watch
streaks descend window panes; it’s about inky cosy nights, pajamas and
an album of blues, while you sit with your feet curled under you; it’s
about fine misty rain gathering like moisture on your skin and hair, about
gleaming pavements reflecting lights.
It washes away gray skies and nourishes the cracked earth. There’s a
devil-may-care quality about it: the way it makes people skip out of the
way of a puddle, or splash of a car; duck from the points of someone’s
umbrella, rumples blow-dried hair, soils silk shirts, wets beds and
smashes window panes. And it does worse where we have slashed and burned,
dispensed with drainage, cut into hillsides: uproots crops, drowns
children in floods. But this is about poetry, not human shortsightedness,
so let’s not go there.
Tobago introduced me to the whole mystique surrounding rain in the
Caribbean. People wouldn’t iron and then “go in the fridge” since it
would give them a cold. In our tropical humid heat, babies and toddlers
are dressed up in woollen caps since “dew is falling” even when the
sky is clear and beams a million stars and a full moon - another bit of
I couldn’t see dew drops falling anywhere, just settling on large
leaves and wobbling on huge pink and orange tropical flowers, but that’s
another bit of poetry.
There was a time, before these Caribbean poetic truisms soaked into my
skin, I would rush out in torrents of rain, step into puddles and delight
in rainwater running down my cheeks. Once because I fell in love with the
fine moisture-like quality of rain in Devon, I walked three villages and
back to a holiday cottage in the dark, triumphant, bearing useless bits of
twigs for fire and wildflowers to decorate the mantlepiece, feeling as
free as a woodsprite and a tramp.
But there is nothing as primal as swimming in the sea in a tropical
downpour. The fat drops warm and rock the sea, wash over you like a
blessing. But after a while myths soak in. Once I caught a cold after
running in the rain and did the worst. Got safe. Carried umbrellas. Minced
around puddles, waited till it stopped. I lost the falling rain but
didn’t know how much I missed it until last Sunday’s visit to the
A picnic had been planned. But, just as we were about to set off,
rain started falling. It poured, it thundered, it flashed, it
flooded, it splashed and sploshed on the windshield wipers. But our
expedition was headed by a determined former army officer so two cars,
five children including a six-month-old baby set off. We drove through
miles of rain, sleeting across fields of grass, bending palms, peeling
roofs, fecund dripping fruit trees. Past the entrance we drove, over three
fragile bridges into the depths beneath which we had images of plunging.
We stopped short. A tree had fallen across our path. Undeterred, the
oldest man amongst us leapt out to move it.
The young men followed reluctantly, rain pouring down their cheeks.
Their hands and arms were soiled with wet mud and leaves by the time they
moved enough branches to allow us to continue. It was like being on the
set of Jurassic Park. On either side was dense foliage through which we
glimpsed bits of a river, waterfalls. But it didn’t prepare us for the
heart-stopping sight we beheld as we rounded the last corner: a calm wide
expanse of water, above which was a hilly green path lit up by palettes of
white wildflowers. A sloping shed leading to the water was where we set
down our picnic baskets and spread our cloth.
After picnicking, everyone but the baby frolicked in the rain for three
hours - followed the path to the end, singing, running, pushing our wet
shoes deep into puddles, shaking a pomarac tree for fruit and biting into
its pungent sweetness, picking flowers, examining plants, walking down the
steep slope to immerse our palms into the warm water. We were drenched to
the bone, but its healing qualities had seeped in deeper.
night, as we got into pajamas after warm showers and stirred soup on the
stove I felt as if an essential tenderness of the soul was restored. Some
of the muck of artificial fear, of stuffiness, stiffness, was removed.
“I learned”, said the young Trini man of good humour as he tucked into
his soup, “that I don’t need to fear the rain.”
no one caught cold.