Friday, February 5, 2010

A Day Without Sunshine

The sky was endless blue, so bright and clear, it could have been water. He rested his back into the thick trunk of the village’s largest banyan tree and stared towards the heavens. So clear. So absolutely blue it hurt his eyes. Squinting, he noticed a small flock of black birds darting back and forth, their small shapes looking like chaotic falling stars in a world of inside-out colors. So blue, so absolutely clear.
It had been that way for years, for as long as he had been a farmer and looked into the cloudless sun-filled sky and wondered when it would rain. His body was still lean then, and firm, and he walked as straight as the tallest tree. He remembered looking at his little sprouts of millet just emerging from the soil, then praying for the water to give them life. They were so tender then, bright green and as big as the nail on his smallest finger. Each one so delicate and precious. Looking at his rows of crops, he felt a love for each little shoot, a love not quite the same, but not completely different from the affection he felt for his children, for all the children in the village. For the fields were life too, raw and bright and moving towards the sun with all the power and knowledge they possessed.
He imagined a day when the spouts would grow, till they reached his shoulders, and in his mind he could almost hear the raucous chants of the harvest festival and the overwhelming sense of happiness, knowing that for another year, the people would be fed. He would be fed, and really, it was all that he cared for, knowing that the children could grow to be men and beautiful women.
That’s what he wanted, as a young man that first year with fields of his own to sow and plant and harvest, he wanted what each farmer would have wanted, but in the arid plains where he lived, there must be rain. And after the spring rains many months before and after the small buds of life had begun, the skies cleared and never clouded again.
Everyday his heart sank a little deeper as each of the small millet sprouts shriveled and burned beneath the unrelenting sun. The scales of the earth had tilted, there was just too much heat, too much power. The rain never came. Not that year, not in the years that would follow. He grew old waiting for a cloud.
His muscles had softened, his hair had grayed. He had spent his life looking to the sky, asking, pleading, begging for one day without sunshine. Just for one day, just so the soil could drink and life could begin once again, green and tender.
But the sun did not answer. The burning light never softened, it refused to smile shyly and recede, relinquishing its light so a thick layer of clouds could roll into darkness. His knees had grown weak from kneeling, from pleading beneath the unmoved sun. Could it not feel? How could it shine, shine year after year, while they starved beneath the endless blue sky. And though he was hungry, and though he was weak, he got on his knees, as he did every day, asking quietly for a day without sunshine.

No comments: