Waiting for the Rains

By Lin Barrie

Late October, that roasting hot time of year just before the rains arrive in Zimbabwe.

My ‘back garden’, the lowveld of Zimbabwe, is panting and poised, waiting for life-giving water to fall from the sky.

Elephants cluster thirstily around the waterhole at our bush house, bringing their calves to wallow in the mud; it’s time for the summer-flowering Sabi Star, Adenium Swazicum, to draw on secret reserves in its swollen stems and burst forth with delightful hot pink petals.

White combretum flowers have now come and gone, their sweet scent and attendant buzzing bees heralding the true start of summer…a welcome relief to the senses in the dry dust before any rain falls.

This time of year brings my favourite colour: the rich russet red of the fallen Mopani leaves that lie in drifts beneath the stark dark Mopani tree trunks in the woodland below my bush house.

Sunsets are glowing hot collages with dry white thorns silhouetted against deep orange skies.

Kigelia flowers have blossomed in the hottest time of the year, dropping ruby red flowers to the earth for eager antelope to devour, at a time when grass is scarce. Nature is wonderful, the threads and connections linking to give relief just when needed.

Albida pods fall naturally in circlets of pink and gold, are plucked by reaching baboons, or are shaken enthusiastically from their branches by ponderous elephants. High in protein, Albida pods are part of this wonderful web, a rich source of nutrients for needy elephants, hippos and all sorts of beasts in Gonarezhou National Park and in Mana Pools.

This is truly a golden time of year with hot yellow sunshine and the gorgeous gold and lemon flowers of Cladystemon kirkii, the so-called ‘cannon ball’ or ‘knobkerrie’ bush, with its pendulous huge fruit that grateful vervet monkeys nibble into. There is as yet no rain in sight in late October, but the great Save River still dreams and still flows, on its way to the Indian Ocean past the Save Valley Conservancy and Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge. This magnificent river is home to hippos, crocodiles, African skimmers, Egyptian geese and nesting tilapia, and is the watery thread that connects us, a web of life that nurtures us and our lowveld ‘Bush Garden’.

Everything waits…for the rain.

December now and what a sigh of relief we all feel that it has come. The hope we all continue to have that it keeps coming throughout the rainy season.

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