Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thunderstorms and Shampoo

Leaving the brilliant beach, I scurried to the shade of an overhanging coconut tree.  When I licked them, my lips were salty from sweat and the ocean.  My entire body had a thin coating of the stuff, I knew, even my hair, tied up and out of the way in a frizzy knot.  Lowering my eyelashes against the glare, I looked down the stretch of beach.

The sand stretched, blindingly white.  Then, at the end of the village, I could see a system of encroaching rain clouds.  They towered up into the blue sky, stretched length wise to divide the day in stark contrasts.  One minute brilliant sun, the next torrential rain.  The rain came in thick, grey sheets, a slowly advancing wall of relief against the sun.

I watched as it gradually overtook the village, then, it was over me.  I was plunged into cool shadow, a misty splattering, then a million tons of fresh, clean water dumped down on me.  In minutes, my hair was soaked and streaming in rivulets down my cheeks.  My t-shirt showed transparent on my shoulders.  Water ran down my arms to drip from each fingertip, splaying in crystal arcs with each movement of my hands.  I raced home, because rain meant one thing to me - shower time.

Usually, we'd get clean by hauling a 5 gallon bucket from the well, then stand on the gravel outside our front door with cup in hand to ladle the water over our heads.  Ladle.  Lather up.  Ladle, rinse.  Ladle, conditioner.  Ladle, rinse again.  Pour the remaining gallon or so over your head in one big rush.  I never really felt clean.

But, catch a rain shower just right, and I could get in a good, long soaking.  By the time I got home, our rain tank had already filled up and was now spewing the excess water from its opening in the top.  I grabbed the soap, shampoo, and conditioner from their places under our steps, stood under the crystal downpour, and lathered up.

Cleaning yourself in pure rainwater, outside on a warm and humid day, is luxury itself.  The air smells of wet earth, sweet tropical flowers, and the perfume from your shampoo.  The rain tank overflow pours down heavy and smooth over your head.  Senses electrified and prickling, you join with the earth, the plants, opening up to receive heaven's benediction.


  1. I love your writing! So evocative. I can see it and smell it and feel it :)

    Your stories from the Solomons always remind me of Vanuatu. I was only there for two weeks, but we lived in island dress among locals the whole time and it had a deep impact on me.

  2. Now I feel sticky and itchy, like I need to go take a shower in the rain. And I had a bath this morning, I promise!

  3. What I didn't mention (would have ruined the romance!) was the fact that you're always risking being watched by a few little kids, and having to soap up underneath your clothes, lol.

  4. Loved this post--brings back memories for me too. I remember going for months without taking a shower with my clothes off. (We had a public water faucet in the village, as well as the "kini" spot in the nearby river.

  5. But it does serve the dual purpose of washing whatever t-shirt you happen to be wearing at the time!