When the sun comes up, it rises from the back of the house and peeps over the roof and tiptoes into the garden and casts, first, before it settles on the grass, a halo upon tree tops. And then the light sinks to the lawn which – because of an extraordinary abundance of water – is green despite the high white heat of summer. Beyond the garden, the lionsmane yellow of the scrub is straggled in stark contrast and when the wind whips, dust spirals and dances into the garden to lace the bluecoolness of the pool. When the rain comes, and we’re waiting for it with tight, hot, bated breath, the dust will settle.
The house is long and low. Conceived by a Zambian minster who ran out of money it has existed both as home and hotel. The plethora of redundant bathrooms endorse its brief foray into the hospitality industry. It’s too big for us, for Ant and I: we appropriate only a small portion of its cavernous hugeness. We close doors against emptiness so that we are not constantly reminded of the children’s distance. It’s an elastic house; when they all come home for Christmas there will be boundless space for everybody to have a spot of his or her own to create noise and mess or find peace and quiet. Sometimes, when I stand at one end and call the dogs, they can’t find me. Pili, anxious, exuberant, still puppyish two years later, skids on polished parquet floors in her haste to race through corridors and when she does, finally, come upon me, slips and slides some more to show how pleased she is that I am still here. They have been as unsettled as I.
In the evening we sit on the verandah and listen to the guinea fowl cackling in the bush nearby. Arguing, each wanting to be heard above the other, each with a more valid point to make or a better story to tell. The garden is full of birds, paradise fly catchers sweep through, long tails trailing. My days are punctuated by bird call. And then the sun rolls out of the sky and bursts in a show of cranberry pink on a western horizon behind trees so that I can’t see its final moments but I can see boughs and branches on fire and know it’s happening.
The dust hasn’t settled on our lives yet. I remain on tenterhooks wondering if this will all be alright. If it will last. I don’t know yet. But I do know that for now this is a good place to sit still, quietly, taking stock.
This is my fifth home, in a third country, in eleven months. I think it’s a good place to gather myself up.
But I hope the rain comes soon …