Sunsets in Nuwara Eliya

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From Toppass, we watch storms build to the southeast, over Badulla, says Sabah, looking with us. He stands watching the sky intently, his sweater-clad arms encumbered by leeks and cabbages with soil shaking from their roots. These storms never reach us, not even their rumbling, but their expanding, flashing energy dominates the sky.

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These are the kind of giant mushrooming thunderheads my firefighter friends used to encourage with shouts of “Get Some!” They’d even pull over the truck to watch, fists pumping at the sky, as they imagined the lightning bust that must be tearing through some dry sequoia stand. “Cumulus Overtimus,” such clouds were called, in anticipation of the extra hours they were sure to pick up by working the resulting forest blazes. Sri Lanka is too damp to burn, but the dry season color show is something to write home about.

Three nights in a row, these clouds appear and we watch them from the cabbage patch or balcony; standing and watching, lightning illumes the insides of white-purple columns. It is chilly; we lost the sun’s light hours ago. When the last of the pink fades, we go inside to take soup, which Sabah has been stirring all this time. It is a vegetable soup, different from last night’s and different from tomorrow’s, he says, a chef proud of his skills. But it is always hot, Sabah’s soup, gullet-warming, with ingredients picked this evening from our garden.

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