Returning Home

I am back home in Brazil and the spring rains have come. The air is deep and damp, and the humidity fills your lungs and greases your skin. I like it. It reminds me of summers at home in Maine. Funny how that happens here; this place is familiar even though the packaging is different. The trucks rumble along the highway in the distance, although here they trail the perfume of pineapples not pine trees. The cicadas keen in the trees. Or is it a bird?  The sound is the same?  This air that you can drink, that slicks your skin with the smallest exertion, I swim through it just as I would through Maine’s humid summers. Even the spring birdsongs sound familiar. The individual songs may be different, but if I close my eyes their chorus sings songs of home.

Thunder rumbles in the distance. It is a sound that as a child would have had me sprinting to put on my swimsuit so that I could go dance in the raindrops. Perhaps not the safest of entertainments, running outside in thunderstorms, but the trees were much taller than me so lightning was unlikely. Here, on the top of this hill, maybe I’ll just enjoy the rains from the veranda. Also when the rains come here they last hours. They are not our short summer thunderclouds but long deluges that cancel your afternoon plans.

With the spring rains come clouds of flying termites, released from winter hibernation by the waters. When I was a child spring would bring stoneflies: large, ungainly, stupid, and harmless. Occasionally one would crawl up from the river and hide itself in your bedroom, careening about or fluttering in a corner. The fluttering of their wings was so loud any hope of sleep would be abandoned until you could find it and put it back outside. These termites might be smaller in size, but they make up for it in numbers. They form clouds. For two to three days after each heavy rain they swarm at night towards any light source, fluttering and careening into anything in their path. If you are thoughtless enough to leave a window open the only way to get rid of them is to lead them back out from room to room, a la Pied Piper, by turning off all the house lights and turning on just one until you have led them finally back out to the porch.

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Surely these termites can be used as a metaphor for something. I can’t find it yet, but it’s there. Their short life cycle seems the essence of a fleeting existence. One moment they are everywhere in enormous brown clouds. Then as they flutter and bang themselves against surfaces they begin to lose their wings. They drop to the ground and crawl about aimlessly seeking a partner with whom to mate. Frogs sit below the light bulbs and along the walls, scooping up the feast from the heavens. By morning they are gone, leaving only piles of their shed wings that drift across the floor and into corners, feathers from a nocturnal pillow fight.

We lie in bed, exhausted after the long, rainstorm-riddled drive from the airport to our farm, breathing in the damp spring air and drifting off to sleep. Peeper frogs sing down in the valley and once again as I close my eyes this November Brazilian evening could just as easily be a June night in Maine. Something outside the window flashes, 1-2-3, and draws our attention. What was that? Spring lightning bugs? A distant thunderstorm? Or… “Aliens!” I whisper. “Oh no….” groans my husband as he pushes his head under the pillow, “That’s not good… We just got home!”

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