By Keith Smith

You know something is up in Trinidad when you see and hear people bothering about the weather. I used to think that the weather forecasts in Trinidad newspapers were a waste of space. Everybody knew that 'dry season' meant 'sun' and 'wet season' meant 'rain', regluar like clockwork. Once you understood this simple swing of things, well, Good Friday could fall on Ash Wednesday.

No more, though. These days Trinis wait up to listen to weathermen Robin Maharaj and David Parasram and, where once those two played to a select audience of fishermen and farmers, now their audience includes just about everybody who's afraid of being burnt black or broiled brown on this hot, hot, hot hotboy of an island.

Nor can we feel superior anymore to those Trinidadians transplanted to London, Toronto and New York, whose first thought every living day has to do with the weather. Because, while we have been spared so far the vagaries of ice and snow, every morning brings the yearning for a break from the kind of rainless heat we have been enduring.

So there were all these Trinidadians lined up in the shopping centres of Port of Spain watching the rain just as their ancient ancestors first beheld the gift of fire, watching it steadfastly in quiet disbelief as if what they were seeing were a kind of miracle. And now, along with murder and other kinds of mayhem, Trinis worry daily about the weather.

The silver lining to this particular cloud is that it has brought us closer to the outside world. We can feel ourselves part of the same ring of fire as we watch the Amazon burn, the television screen glowing as Roraima, that wedge of rain forest between Venezuela and Guyana, blazes and blazes, drying up all those once roaring rivers and slithering streams and turning into roast beef some 12,000 head of cattle.

And we knew watching it that, try as the firefighters might, their only hope was rain. So that, when rain did come we could identify with those Yanomami Indians who, letting the liquid run the length of their long faces, looked for all the world like delighted children. You couldn't help but wonder both at the pastoral primitiveness of that scene and the resemblance, once you took away the suits and sloshing cars, to the scene in Port of Spain this week when our own rains arrived.

I wonder whether, more for us than for them, this has not been a humbling experience, the unusual change in climate reminding us that not even the glare of sun and the pull of the moon and tide are constant. Reminding us, too, how much of our modern lives are subject, just like those of the ancients, to the shifts and shimmies of those passing clouds. So that, mindful that 'God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water the fire next time', when the rains came there also came the assurance that now was not yet that time.

(Keith Smith was born and grew up in Laventille, East Port of Spain, and still lives there. He was educated at Fatima College in the city and at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and has been engaged almost as long as anyone else in Trinidad and Tobago in the pursuit of journalism. He is editor-at-large for Trinidad Express Newspapers.)