Tree frogs sing sex songs in the birch leaves under the cover of night, and lightning flashes across the sky. We sit on chairs watching the camp fire lick tongues into the darkness while drinking beers, the fermented grains adding to the fish tacos drenched in peach salsa already swimming in our spicy chili-filled stomachs. The dry Appalachian ridgeline of South Mountain in Michaux State Forest is in need of the rain. Satiated, we sit waiting for the drops to fall.
Ethiopia is experiencing horrendous floods. Hundreds have died, and tens of thousands have been displaced. After a two year drought, there is now more water than the Earth beneath the land of Abyssinia can hold. Rivers have busted their banks and dams have been released to prevent bursting. A year ago Katrina destroyed New Orleans. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras. I can remember a peaceful mountain stream turning into a raging river of destruction over the course of a few days. I learned then that water can be deadly as well as life-giving.
Drops begin to fall, and soon become a gentle attempt at a shower. The tree frogs are still singing in the trees. Thunder sounds a little closer, rolling around the hills and into my chest, that place where drums reverberate if you’re near enough to the drummer beating out a rhythm. A few lightning flashes light up the leaf canopy and the coolers on the ground. The rain’s pace has picked up, moving from recreational jogger to exercise enthusiast. A steady shower spackles the burning wood, though it does not have much success at putting it out. It is a hot fire. A nice bed of embers a few inches deep sits below the logs. Unable to finish my beer, the belly is too full; I step into the rain and walk over to my tent. An exchange of “Good night” is shared. I unzip the rain fly and then the tent, and crawl in. Getting my sleep pad in line and my bag unfurled into a blanket instead of a cocoon, I notice the rain has become heavier than a few seconds ago. It spatters hard against the blue nylon.
The U.S. Navy is helping the people of Ethiopia by setting up tents and beds for the displaced people. They are based in Djibouti, Ethiopia’s neighbor and home of the U.S. Command in the Horn of Africa. It was established after 9/11. Many theorized that the fallout of Katrina in New Orleans maybe was impacted by the diminished National Guard numbers in the U.S. In Honduras, the U.S. military also assisted with rescue operations during and after Mitch, as did the Spanish, Japanese and German militaries, to name a few.
I lie in my tent and listen to the rain. The tree frogs are silent. Lightning flashes and thunder rolls every now and then. I give thanks for the rain, hoping that it is falling on farm fields on both sides of the ridge. I fall asleep. A few hours later I wake to go to the bathroom. I step out of the tent, find my flip flops and look up. The sky is filled with stars, not a cloud anywhere. It is breezy and cool. I smile and take a deep breadth. The fresh air of a summer rain mixed with wet ground fills my lungs. Looking over at the rock fire ring, I see a soft red/orange glow. Indeed, it was a hot fire.
(written 22 August 2006)