Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living in the Clouds

One of my favorite things about living in Tortola, especially in the more specific place we live, on Great Mountain, overlooking Road Town and Road Harbour, are the clouds. I have tried many times to take pictures of a variety of different cloud phenomena. My camera skills must not be up to the task though, because the photos don't ever look like what it does in person.

My absolutely favorite cloud event is the squall. Squalls have been pretty rare the last couple of weeks, but when I first got here in August, we usually had a squall every day. Sometime in the early afternoon, I look off our balcony, and out past Salt Island, Dead Chest, and Peter Island, to see a smudge of grey on the horizon. Twenty minutes later, I notice that what used to be a grey smudge is now hovering over Salt Island, with wispy tendrils of rain descending from the clouds.

I watch as the tendrils move over the island and across Sir Francis Drake Channel, able to see by the disturbance in the glassy water exactly where the rain was falling. Soon, the squall line would make landfall again, covering Road Town and making the streets and buildings invisible, before gradually beginning its climb up the mountain. Some five minutes after enveloping Road Town, I feel the first small droplets on my face.

These little drips always come as a surprise, as the squall seems still to be several hundred feet below me. Looking down on Road Town, watching the clouds ascend, I neglect to look above me and realize that I am already enveloped by cloud. After a few days here, I realized the droplets were my last warning; the heavy rain would be upon me before I had a chance to get inside.

The heaviest rain from the squall keeps me briefly indoors, lasting five or ten minutes at the most, before the squall passes, and I am greeted with a clear view of dampened Road Town under blue skies, shining in the sun.

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