I’m supposed to give you the story of Hermie Houdini today, but I got sucked into a torrent, and that will have to wait. I’m learning to perfect the writer’s craft. This week in one of my courses we’re working on scene. Thinking about Hermie got me deep into the hillside here.
Picture this. The slope I live on is so steep it’s like living on the back side of a wave that lifts you three feet off the bottom when you’re at the beach. Objects carelessly left on the deck railing and knocked off go clattering and careening down slope until they get snagged by a jumble of rocks or detritus up against a tree root. If you’re game for going after the errant object, you have to nearly bend prone to get back up hill to where the level spot is under the deck. If you don’t mistakenly put your foot on a loose spot, you’ll make it, but only if you grab onto trees and things that look mightily anchored to the scarce top dressing of tropical earth. You can’t see the bottom of this hill from the deck, but that’s where the gut is.
I’ve thought about stringing a rope from tree to tree to aid in the ascent.
One time, chasing down the screw cap to my stainless water bottle, I took the roof broom along. That’s a telescoping aluminum pole with a fuzzy bent-out-of-shape green nylon brush at the end. I used the broom head like a shepherd’s crook (now I know what they are good for in addition to snagging lambs) hooking it around trees uphill and then pulling myself along it’s length. This worked well except for when I didn’t tighten the telescopic mechanism and began listing menacingly backward, in the direction of the gut.
A gut is a boulder strewn drainage channel that carries the runoff we get here when it rains. Runoff is an innocent sounding word, and barely describes the water that doesn’t sink in. Rain on St. John isn’t like other places. It comes out of nowhere and goes back there, either dribbling from the trees or gushing with such volume that the gutters can barely accommodate it.
A good rain leaves rocks as big as beach balls just the far side of the hairpin curve, and the roadside gutter, if there is one, strewn with gravel, dead palm fronds, smashed plastic water bottles. In a few places this torrent might tear and rage madly down into a storm catchment full of pebbles with a tyer palm sticking out of it.
When it really rains you can hear the normally silent gut from my bed. Not long after the rain cloud clears Bordeaux Mountain’s west flank the plunk plunking of rain sloughing off the dastardly leaf-dropping turpentine trees overhead is joined by what can only be described as the sound of an insane skier made of water schussing downhill as fast as he can go. It’s definitely the sound of a reckless guy skier. Only in this case, the sound doesn’t pass by and diminish like it does on a steep snow covered mountain. On St. John, this schuss stays right there in your ear for an hour, a half a day, a few days. Depends on the rainfall.
© 2010 Jennifer Pierce, All Rights Reserved