The Magic of Harmattan
by Awo Gyan
In Ghana, it’s that time of the year when the Sahara desert reminds us that Africa is home, with the blowing of the mighty-dusty northeast trade winds to the west and beyond. There’s no winter, no fireplace, but the weather is simultaneously cold and warm.
From December, harmattan sends its messengers to tell the news of its coming. Gladly, they whisper it to the trees on the other side of the continent, excited to have traveled elsewhere.
When the trees get wind of the harmattan, the magic begins. Their leaves dry up and change to different hues of red and orange. And who said there was no autumn here? Gradually, the leaves fall, and the trees are left bare. As if to show reverence, the leaves lay prostrate and cover the ground like a carpet laid for a king so his feet do not touch the ground. The color makes everything glorious, and walking never sounded this good! The sun beams as usual, I occasionally enjoy the symphony from the crunching of the crisp dry leaves under my feet. What a masterpiece!
Harmattan arrives in grand style…. always. At night, when the sun has gone around to warm other lands, it moves stealthily and takes over. It loves to surprise people, so instead of waiting till day, like the sun, it creeps in silently with chilly winds and great blankets of fog. At dawn, as the sun slowly rises from the east, gusts of harmattan winds blow over the land, so you wake up and BAM! Harmattan! Just like that, from nowhere without warning! Chills slap your face in the morning and it stings so badly that your nostrils hurt and the shock makes your mouth dry up. The shock turns to happiness, finally! The heat is over, and you smile, but not too widely so the stretch does not crack your dry lips.
There are two groups of people in this season, the ready and the unready. The ready are those who anticipated harmattan’s coming, in spite of the changes in weather that are going on. These people have calabashes, bowls and chunks of shea butter in hiding. The unready don’t, and they, while their companions smile, stand still as the images of the various shea butter vendors they’ve bypassed without a thought reels in their minds. It’s too late now. Shea butter will become like hot cake, probably more expensive than it usually is– if they’ll find some, that is.
For many it is pure joy to take a bath with the cold water, others warm it up, but in the end, they get to their rooms as quickly as they can after their baths and smear the shea butter all over their bodies, paying special attention to their elbows, knees and feet. Not forgetting their lips and nostrils.
In fact everywhere else, harmattan takes self-love to a whole new level. I heard somewhere that harmattan reveals the truly beautiful ones. Butter up or it cracks your lips and heels in search of that beauty!
The fog is very heavy in the morning, but lightens up as the day goes by, and did I mention the dust? You can just use dust instead of harmattan in a sentence and it’s just fine. You wake up, dust. You breathe, dust. You sweep, dust. You clean, dust. You mop, dust. In fact, the most sweeping, dusting and mopping is done during this season. It’s sweep, dust, mop, repeat, and the cycle continues if you want a clean house.
In spite of all these, I look forward to harmattan. It comes with many chills and a lot of dust, and lessons—if you pay attention.
The trees tell us that sometimes we lose, but we also gain. Our failures can put us down, strip us of any dignity and leave us bare and naked, a spectacle to all. But we must stand tall with our heads up and keep on keeping on, our spring will come, our leaves will once again be green and our flowers will bloom, it’s only a matter of time.
They lay a beautiful carpet for harmattan with their leaves, so when his winds blow, they rise and show that indeed it’s here. Yes, sometimes in life we have to sacrifice things for others. You know exactly what will make others shine, give, let go. Help them to do their best. Your time will come darling, it’s only a matter of time
Harmattan catches many off guard and reminds me of preparation. To put something down for future use, save your savings for the future, ask those who have shea butter now, they’ll tell you. Don’t wait till it’s too late and pay the high price.
Self-love. Love yourself . Treat yourself well, be that king or queen you are and reign every single day. Forget about circumstances, they change. Enjoy every day you get and leave no room for regret.
If the dust settles, clean it up, you can take a break, but once it’s over, wake up, learn, improve, repeat. Do something every day that will take you closer to your goals!
Invest in yourself. Let your touch linger even after you’ve left, like the harmattan.
Be you! Be true! Make impact! Be like harmattan!
About the author: Awo is one of the winners of the 2016 Ama Ata Aidoo short story competition. She is a student at the University of Ghana studying Nutrition and Food Science. She can be found reading, inventing quirky recipes and "DIYing" when she's not writing. Awo enjoys doing voice overs and tries to be creative in every possible way.