The sounds of the rain have been replaced by fire. I hear crackling and spitting around me and look out the door, half expecting to see thick drops, but instead see the clear blue sky, the clear blue day. The breezes blow, the sun beats down, and the sounds feel like the fire is in the hut with me. Surrounding me. It is cool, and oddly calming.
Out in the plain, though, it has changed. The tall grasses that once swept by my body, slapped my ankles and tickled my wrists, now crackle with low lying flames. I can see the lines where the charring stops, or has yet to begin. The iwes walk along near the fire, and I don’t know if they are helping it along or just watching it dance, but I skip around the little burning patches and cover my eyes to the smoke and run a bit faster towards a clear part of the path, waving to the iwes as I go by.
And yesterday I went up to Ikelenge, the very tip of the province, to the source of the Zambezi. Tucked into a little forest, a little forest so saturated with water still. It hasn’t been burned, torn down by crops and by fire. It smells like a rainforest, and the little puddle that turns into a stream that turns into the Zambezi into Victoria Falls runs clear and calm through the shady trees.
But back out, out of the protected area, out of the forest, the ground is black like coal, thin brown grasses poking up above the rest that is so dark and bare. Patches of old grass and new, coal black and green, the darkest land I have ever seen looking so saddengly beautiful and bare.
All the way home to where the wind whips itself into a frenzy of sand and little pieces of ash that fall and cover my arms and chest and face for a minute or so before they calm down again. And I go inside and a piece of ash falls from inside my ceiling onto my hand. And the smoke and the wind and the cracking hiss of the fire die down with the evening, replaced by the ever constant deep deep blue and bright bright shine of the stars above.