Thursday, December 9, 2010

rainy season

I've grown up taking precipitation for granted. Spending the first 18 years of my life across the street from Lake Michigan, with its five month long ritual of lake effect snow, and the next five years in Grand Rapids, apparently the second rainiest city in the country, has not left me in want of moisture. But watching storm clouds tumble along the Indian Ocean coast, or seeing lightning bolts shock the Maputo cityscape with electric pink reminds me that I'm actually quite blessed.

In these past few months I've learned not only more about sustainable agriculture and water conservation techniques such as sand dams, but also about the stark reality of the needs behind these practices. I could easily throw out dozens of statistics that evoke pity, enlightenment and overwhelming helplessness at the magnitude of water deprivation issues in sub-Saharan Africa alone. But experiencing how tangible and sensual water problems puts lively flesh to the dry bones of statistics. People eat or starve by the rains, crops live or die by the rains, and roads are passable or soup by the rains. Walking across a sand pit that used to be a river, relishing in the taste of sun-baked water because the tap is untrustworthy, and smelling the electric nitrogen-laden air as we eagerly await the rain are all reminders that the start of the rainy season actually means something.

In my home culture, rain is often perceived as a soggy and depressing nuisance that inevitably interjects the sunny rest of life. This has also been my perception of the last few weeks here. A little over three weeks ago, the tension that was building during the dry season finally burst the dam of my host family. Lightning descended and the floods rose, and the life I had delicately constructed here began to dissolve. Trust has been lost, relationships have melted, memories now have scars, and I have often found myself drowning in a sea of emotions that this rainy season has brought upon us. My Mozambican social circle has been broken and almost everything has fallen apart.

But despite the magnitude of the suffering and sadness, I am waterproof. The puddles of muddied confusion have expanded exponentially, but still I know how to swim. And though this week the winds have risen and the temperatures dropped, I am still anchored in place by something firm, yet intangible. As much as I wish to escape the hurtful, the disgusting, the violating, and the regret, there's no use running away. I'm slowly realizing that God is present as much here as anywhere else. He's the air mattress on the living room floor when I'm homeless. He's the arm around the shoulder when I'm reading bad news. He's the peace that comes after my tears have drained all my energy. And he's that quiet farmer who's planting seeds with a smirk on his face and a head full of thoughts no one will ever know. Maybe when the rain stops pelting everything in my sight, something green will pop up out of the drenched ground. It's my only hope. For now, I'll find solace in remembering the words of the lovely poetess Luci Shaw in her eloquently simple poem “Forecast”:

planting seeds
changes my feelings
about rain