Friday, October 1, 2010


Rain!  Lashing, sheeting, tropical rain! Rain that thunders on rooftops, washes hills into gullies, floods road and drowns whole towns. Rain!

Today was a service day at school - all the students stayed home to go puddle stomping, and we sat in classrooms and wrote term reports.
            Or pretended to. We watched the rain sheeting silver on the windows and listened to it thunder on the iron roof above us and opened the classroom door to watch the earth run deep and red below the stoop.
            We wrote no reports at all. At three o'clock it was still coming down like sheets of solid thunder, and I was editing patchy and piecemeal, so I left. I'd promised to help a friend make marmalade. Which presented a small problem - the oranges were still out on the tree.
            Sarah has an orange tree. Orange trees suit our (mostly) dry, Mediterranean -ish climate (for a given value of Mediterranean, if you're a sufficiently desperate garden center representative and you can count on your customers keeping buckets in the shower and under the laundry sink to save the overflow for their vegetables) and Sarah's was heavy and creaking with fruit. Something needed to be done before they all fell at once and turned her garden into a sweet, sticky orange swamp, and every bee in the neighborhood turned up for the feast - but it was a hell of a day for orange picking!
            We sat at her square kitchen table and waited for a lull in the storm - but each time it cleared, as we made the dash between the kitchen table and the back door, the sky spilled open again.
            So we picked oranges in a solid wall of water. Small fish swam around our shoulders and blew bubbles, and all of the plants in Sarah's vegetable garden slipped loose from the soil and floated away behind the garden shed.
            There was an air pocket under the tree. The tree was so heavy with fruit we could pick just as well from underneath as above, but the tree was so heavy with rain that every time I tugged a branch it dropped six pints of water down the back of my trousers. Which didn't notice. They'd grown gills.

Tropical rains I like. Up in Papua New Guinea, whenever the world turned to roaring water (every evening about six-ish, just in time to short out the satellite TV link and cut us off half way through the evening news) I'd go across the street and collect my two young neighbors and take them for piggy back rides.
            I went swimming when it rained. You couldn't tell where the pool ended and the air began. But the thing about tropical rains is - tropical rains are warm. You can go puddle stomping and stay out for hours without catching cold.
            This South Australian stuff was served on ice. The fish looked at me and sniggered.

We filled a laundry basket with fruit and the tree was still barely touched. Carrying the basket between us, we sprinted out from under the tree and ran for the back door. The sky roared and the rain tried to swat us flat against the ground. We slapped the screen door open and flung ourselves through. Sarah leaned against the wall  and whooped and flung her wet hair and we shook ourselves dry like a pair of wet shaggy dogs. Sarah scooted a school of minnows back out the door with her foot and we trod, our socks squelching, back into the kitchen and made marmalade.
           I have a row of jars lined up in my pantry to eat tomorrow morning with bread and butter.  It is the very best marmalade; tart and biting and only very delicately edged with sweet.

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