Postcards at Dawn

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   They march across the dimly-lit horizon, massive worn-down teeth of a sleeping dragon – the Outeniqua mountains, just before sunrise. Ragged edges. Smooth slopes. Shadowed ravines. A purple haze that looms out of the gloom. Fields and forests and valleys coating the lower slopes and flatlands.

I’m doing the morning school run, driving parallel to this moving, shifting masterpiece. The sun is still well below the horizon, the clouds splay out above, catching fire from beneath because the sun is still so low.

Every turn in the road, every dip of a valley, reveals new things that make me happy I made this move.

Farm dams that mirror the sky, and the cows strolling like grey ghosts to drink, their reflections as perfect as upside-down twins. Sometimes I can tell that the cows have already been milked, other times I can see their bulging udders – relief is probably an hour or two away.

On a slope, a cluster of sacred ibis shake out their feathers as they preen momentarily. They could be preparing to leave for a new Garden-Route ‘larder’ or else they may have just landed and are gearing up for a day of intense foraging.

Closer to town, the horses in the paddocks at the showground continue grazing – their meals have no set time. Eating is about living to eat some more.

During the past few months, the roadworks in town have snarled up what there is of a rush hour. Traffic cops in safety vests glow green in the half-light as they direct cars, trucks, and buses across unmarked intersections.

The return journey shows the other side of the palette. The sun is behind me, poking long rays across the land and dabbing peachy washes of watercolour on the dragon’s teeth. It’s as if I am being pursued by a paintbrush loaded with light.

White egrets, in rough v-formations, stitch their way above me in my car on the road below. At sunrise and sunset I see dozens of these egret flocks – back in Joziburg™ I was fortunate if I saw two or three in a group. Here, they feast in the hundreds on the insect life thrown up by the farmers’ ploughs, and on the bug life kicked around by flocks of sheep and cows.

As I wind my way steadily westwards, the road twists and begins its descent to the shoreline. This is where I like to open my window a bit and grab a noseful of the coastal bush. It’s a smell like no other – I picture it as deep olive green, heavy, damp, dense. Imagine if I could bottle it?

On the last straight run to ‘my’ village I cross the river. The water is as smooth as polished glass, a mirror of the world above it. On the rusty old supports of the old rail bridge, the resident cormorant ignores me completely. He has better fish to find.


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