I woke up at about 3.00 AM. There was a constant drip. drip. drip.
“Great,” I thought. “Another leaky tap to fix”.
And then I smelt it. A heady mixture of earth; sweet-smelling wet earth. And detritus, wet leaf litter. And the sound of raindrops falling on the parched earth.
A smile spread across my face.
We have been hoping, begging for rain for a long time. The seasons seem to be topsy-turvy, the winters are warmer, spring dry and summer unbearably hot. Rainfall patterns had shifted; where we could expect a little rain to fall as early as October, our first real rain only now arrives.
Practically this means that the veld, and the animals living off it, must go to extraordinary measures to keep their bellies full. For pregnant females, this battle for survival can be compounded by the prevalence of fires in the tinder-dry bush.
Make no mistake, fire is a very necessary part of the ecological cycles of nature. Without fire, trace elements like nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, boron, and zinc, will not be available for reabsorption to new and growing plants. The cycle of fire and rain are inextricably linked. Fire burns old, dry and moribund material, wind and rain distribute the nutrients. It cleans as well; wood and leaf litter succumb to the heat and flames. It also controls parasites that thrive on animals with a weakened immune system.
The rains have just started. The dams need filling, as does the underground water sources on which we depend in the dry season. It will come. We trust it will come.
As I am sitting in the office writing this piece, I see a few drops on the pavement outside the building. A palatable silence envelope the bush. The birds are quiet, the impala, zebra and wildebeest hiding under the few bushes that provide a bit of cover. This is the silence before the growth, the first step to the renewal of life.
This is rain in the bushveld.