Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reflections from a Rooftop

The wet season has really hit Cairns today. There is nothing like a real tropical downpour. It’s especially exciting when you are on the roof cleaning out the gutters. You think it is raining heavily; and then it really rains. Except that then it really REALLY rains. I had an American friend back at the university in Lausanne to whom everything was “awesome”. No. This is awesome.

This is Australia, burnt in the south, drowned in the north.

From the roof I have a different perspective on the world. Down below I see mainly walls. From up here, I see islands of palms (for the most part) above a sea of corrugated iron. The sun pulls aside the curtain of clouds for an instant and the iron roofs shimmer. The palm fronds are cast in gold. A green tree frog leaps from the gutter, pausing first to glance its annoyance in my direction, before landing on a palm frond that sinks beneath its weight. A TIP (Torresian Imperial Pigeon, to those in the know; a Torres Island Pigeon, more often) flies into the crown of a nearby palm. Water cascades onto the pavement below. I have the unusual experience of being on the bird’s level, seeing the world as he or she sees it. I try to replicate its call, that deep “wee-uh-woooooooo” that, for me, always heralds spring, as these beautiful birds fly down from the islands up north for the warmer months. I fail miserably. After picking at a few remnants of fruit, the white pigeon, with black-tipped wings and tail, flies away disdainfully.

The sun retreats into hiding once more. The jewels on leaves and fronds – holding tiny captured suns in their depths – fade, and are no more than water again. My gaze turns to the nearby hills. There are only fragmented glimpses of these from below. From my present vantage they march along the coast from north to south. The clouds rest their feet lazily in gullies and ravines.

Some of those clouds, launching themselves away from the hills, throw themselves back to earth as enormous, joyous droplets. I am drenched. The water thunders against the corrugated iron. And I am content.

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