The breeze, steady as ever through the night, picked up urgency around 5:30 this morning. The time is a guess. The first water taxi hadn’t yet sped up the coast. The bell-curve thump-and-rumble of that boat is like a morning cock’s crow to mainlanders. Only more pleasant.
It was still too black out to see, but my wind gauge was beginning to go off the charts.
I use the rustle of the coconuts and palms posted outside my bedroom window as a reliable source of wind information. Slightly breezy and they sound like waves lapping against the beach.
In fact, I’ve learned to distinguish the lapping of waves against the rustle of fronds. It is an art that takes time to train a keen ear. It often requires lying very still in bed, listening closely to the sounds and then opening one eye, ever so slightly, to observe the weather outside and measure it against the assumptions.
As the wind stiffens the sound of the fronds grows in urgency until they begin to sound like a room full of stockbrokers getting lashed by cat-o-nine tails.
To be honest, I’m not sure about that. I’ve never witnessed a room full of stockbrokers being whipped but based on the frenzy when the morning bell rings, I suspect it would be a spectacle not to be missed.
Maybe it should be lawyers.
I know a lot of lawyers and I’ve found many of them to be pleasant people. So, let’s not go for the easy jab here. Stick with stockbrokers, if only because I don’t know any.
Well, you get the idea. The frenzy and urgency of fronds slashing against fronds grows intense.
Behind the sound, you can almost feel the weight of storm clouds moving in across the barrier reef toward shore. The pressure as the air compacts is physical.
And then you hear it, the wall of rain moving in across the water, like the background in a Phil Spector mix. Distant and barely audible but undeniably growing in strength and force until it crashes to shore bayonets at ready, overrunning the palms, then slams into the building, raking windows and racing across the rippled tiles of the roof. It moves inland relentlessly, with purpose. I’ve barely gotten up in the dark to close all the windows before it is over. The near-solid block of precipitation has moved on to the far side of the island where it will gain strength for an assault on the mainland.
I hear the first water taxi of the day but I do not look for it. It is out there as reliable and faithful as anything is on a tropical island. That is good enough for me.
As I return to bed, the last misty vestiges of rain drizzle down from a windless sky. All the real power has moved on.
But the show has only begun.
The curtain is rising on the day. There is a mixed sky behind the rain and the sun is making good use of it.
As the light rolls over the horizon, the muzzy sky plays with the spectrum and uses the mist and coconut trees as a brilliant watercolor canvas. First, the air turns a diaphanous gold, then a light hint of pink, then orange and finally a more-shimmering gold again before all color gives way to the uniform brightness heralding the morning.
I lay there and wonder if I’d really witnessed all that in the span of an hour, or if I’d dreamed it in deep slumber.
Rose, always up with first light, assures me I did.
About then, Moppit unleashes a volley of sneezes. That is her signal that it is time for the morning walk.
Water still drips from the roofs and palms and the air has a crispness to it, like stepping out into the first snow of winter. Only warmer.
No breeze. But a coolness. The sun is a stoking furnace but sheathed in stray clouds for the moment, making for a delightful little walk around the ponds, down the beach and then home for coffee and a fresh slice or two of P.G. Wodehouse’s “The World of Jeeves.”
And it is only 6:35 am.