The storm before the calm

The rain this morning has been that typical on and off pattern with occasional horizontal qualities that is so typical of San Francisco. What’s even more typical is for the rain to pour at night and leave us with overcast, yet dry days. Today will not be one of those.

Since being back from living in Africa, I’ve realized that the rain confounds me here. I can’t really predict it anymore, although to be honest, few can (I believe just two days ago, they were saying it would 26C and clear today). The weather here is sporadic and schizophrenic, much like San Francisco politics and social engagements.

The rain in Africa, specifically Ivory Coast, was easy to predict. Basically, it would rain at least a couple of times a week and during the wet season, every day. This rain was not like what you experience when north or south of 23 degrees latitude though.

The sky would be clear, the sun blazing and unforgiving, yet slightly relenting as the afternoon was fading. Then, from nowhere, the wind would pick up. Huge, gusting bellows of wind blowing around everything that wasn’t strapped down and making it sound as if the cheap tin roof on my house was to tear off. At this point I would usually stand somewhere under an overhang to watch what happened next as the clouds came shredding across the sky like the torrent of a broken dam.

First one drop, then another, and then all of creation would come down from the sky. It would last maybe 20 minutes. You hoped it would last as longer, to douse the heat and cool the night. Sometimes this happened and other times not. But, no matter how long the storm, after it cleared, the world around would be dead quiet. Everything was calm, cooled, and cleansed, waiting for that damnable equatorial sun to rise the next day.

When leaving work one evening a few days ago, I felt the rise of the wind and that thick, wet mud-like taste in the air. Instinctively I got under cover of a parking lot to wait for the shuttle to the metro. The first drop nor the second never came. That air that always signaled a storm rolling in, in Ivory Coast defied me in San Francisco and the rain never came, although both the dependable shuttle as well as the metro did.

Back in the land of my birth, I can no longer predict the weather and admittedly, the storms have a certain lackluster quality that leaves me to again wonder if nature is really all that powerful or if what I saw in West Africa was just a cheap trick. Undoubtedly an earthquake or something else will roll along again at some point to make me realize that yes, I am indeed an insignificant grain of sand arrogantly standing in the path of moving water.

The storm before the calm