Johannesburg has a unique meteorological phenomenon. I don’t know if there is a technical name for it. Jon called it “After-the-Rain”.

After-the-Rain happens the day after an overnight rain storm. The rains thunder through, clearing the dust and pollution from the atmosphere. The next day the sky is piercing, neon blue and full of cottony clouds. The clouds float across the sky in 3D and pile up along the horizon, layer over layer.

Sometimes After-the-Rain only lasts for a couple of hours in the morning. Other times it holds on for an entire day. Today is one of those times.

After-the-Rain sky and clouds.

Today is strange. There were many things on my agenda; I planned to be busy for the whole day. But somehow all the plans fell through and I’ve spent the day staring at the sky.

Clouds behind an aloe tree next to the Lucky 5 Star.

The other day I was talking to my friend Martina, a Joburg expat from the U.K., about South African skies. On a regular basis, we are both struck by the intense beauty of the skies here. Are they actually more beautiful than the skies in our home countries? Or is there something about living here that makes us notice them more?

I love the halo of light around the edges of this frame. There is a special term for this — Jon told me what it was once. But I can’t remember now. [UPDATE: Thanks to Lu for reminding me of the term. It’s a sun dog!]

I’m not sure if the skies are actually prettier here than in the rest of the world. But they are definitely sharper, stronger, more intense. Just like life.

I wish I could explain the way this After-the-Rain sky is making me feel today. My chest is tight — it’s filled with brightness.

I sat on the deck earlier and watched a pair of paradise flycatchers flit around the garden. Paradise flycatchers are tiny, intensely beautiful birds. They dive-bomb through the air chasing flies, moving so fast that all I can see is a blur of golden brown and robin’s egg blue. This pair of flycatchers lives in the garden every summer, before migrating north for the winter. Jon and I spent hours watching them last year.

As I watched the flycatchers today, with the After-the-Rain sky in the background, a light flashed in the back of my head. Jon’s dead. He won’t sit here and watch flycatchers anymore. I’m here, sitting on this deck in Melville, on the earth. Jon isn’t here, and he never will be again. I lost my breath for a moment.

It’s amazing how I keep forgetting and remembering, over and over and over. It’s hard to remember that Jon died.

Sometimes I worry that I harp on grief too much in my blog. I’m afraid it might freak people out or come across as self-serving. But I feel like I have to. I didn’t know what grief looked like before Jon died. Now I stare at grief every day, and it’s a bewildering sight. I feel a constant need to examine it from every angle and try to put it into words. Putting my grief into words makes it real.

Maybe other people who are staring at grief will read this. Maybe it will help.

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