When the Rains Came to Mardi Gras

I was soggy. The rain had come down and rinsed me of my warmth, my dryness, and my high. The rain had come down and flooded the roads, turning the town of Nimbin into an island. I was soaking wet, and adrenaline-buzzed from the mad sprint to cover when the skies cracked open and the rain came pouring down on Mardi Gras.

It was late afternoon and we had no place to go, the Greene man and I. Our plan to roam the streets and partake of the festivities washed away in the deluge.

We had no arrangements for sleep. We’d hitchhiked into town with plans to camp in a field near the outskirts of town. That field was a soggy mud mattress at risk of floating away on the rising water level.

We had no way to get dry. Our few possessions were locked in a car. The car was parked beyond the impassably flooded road, somewhere unknown to us.

We had nothing but our soggy clothes.

Thoughts leaped to the future. They fashioned scenarios of miserable, cold, sleepless nights. They conjured images of wrinkled toes, matted hair, and drooping, bloodshot eyes. Those thoughts scurried like rats through a mine field, setting off detonations of concern, worry, and stress. They signaled the nervous tension of retreat.

Anxiety rose in my throat, and assembled itself into words. It stood in expressive readiness to curse and swear and lament. But then it stalled on the tip of my tongue. I looked Greene man in the eye and saw something I’ll always remember.
His unblinking eyes stared back at mine through streams of water flowing down his matted bangs. They bore into me as if aware of the neuro-chemical reaction occurring within. His mouth was turned upward in a wry grin that seemed to chide me, as if to say “Come on then. Get it all out! Then let’s get on with it.”

Greene man made no move, said no words. And I understood. We were in it thick, Mardi Gras, soaked and adrift. It was time to embrace the moment, and just get on with it.

I nodded and shrugged. And off we strode into the storm.
The rain never let up. The rest of the day and all night it poured strong and thick. A constant splattering thrum pervaded the night. There were no breaks; not to run between shelters, not to retrieve a coat from a parked car.

Silver coils dangled from a black sky. Water, and more water dancing and chattering and laughing; hijacking the celebration. It shimmied down gutters and slid down windows. It splashed on rough, indifferent curbs, and soaked into cotton shirts rushing beyond its grasp. It coated the streets and saturated the earth. Trees rose up enthusiastically as if they couldn’t be happier. And dogs disobeyed their owners to escape the soak.

That Friday night Mother Nature came to party. To strut her stuff. Human plans be damned.

The lot of us vagabonds huddled under awnings and tee-pees, and passed the time. Some laughed in spite of the rain. Some griped because of it. Some played guitar. Some rolled joints. But the night went on, and I was happy.

Using that ever-useful Great Secret, wherein I craft my reality by the way I perceive it, I turned the experience into an adventure. I chose to mine ruggedness. I relieved myself the regret over shattered expectations, and the worry over the coming hours. So I was able to sit square in the moment and admire the aquatic potency. I lived and breathed and drank in the tropical storm. I reveled it.

I remember eventually falling asleep on the wood floor of a Bath & Body Works shop. No mat, no blanket, no pillow. Austere accommodation was on the agenda that night. I was a dutiful student.

I remember bright sunshine waking me up the next day. Hot coffee and a meat pie restored me. I joined some friends, and went swimming in a nearby swollen creek. Some people were almost swept away in the current. It was good fun. So the weekend kicked off.

The experience was a lesson in level-headed adaptation. It was a lesson in austere independence; in rugged optimism; in present mindedness.

What could we do?

Smile and charge through it. Keep back the vermin of anxious notions. Relax into the chaos, and let the chips fall where they may. Trust that down whatever dark alley the night might wind, we will be fine. No matter how cold or wet, how uncomfortable, how deprived of amenity, or how sleepless, we will see the sun rise. And all will be alright.

It was a pivotal lesson that promoted me a rank of toughness. That toughness would pay dividends later in myriad of ways: across vast distances up the coast, on dark nights in Asia, and in unforeseen calamity.

Due gratitude to Greene man for his spark of madness delivered just the right way at just the right time.

Thank you for reading.

-C

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