On Saturday, we went to visit some friends out along Seven Passes Road. Lovely kuier with nice food, great company and interesting conversation. Their house is atop a hill, overlooking forests and valleys above Wilderness.
And thus, it was well after dark when we decided to head home. We said our goodbyes, and I negotiated the track from their house on the top of the hill down to the Passes road.
Let me tell you a not-so-little story. It involves a four-letter word, but I won’t reveal that just yet, no sirree.
Before I went to nursery school – back in the days when a single year of vague socialisation was seen as quite adequate for taming small children before they were dumped on hapless Grade 1 teachers – I fretted that I was woefully unprepared for school. I didn’t know how to write!
I would stare hopefully at the envelopes that arrived in our letterbox: handwritten ones, typed ones, plenty of them brown with funny little tracing-paper windows that made mom blanch. I would faithfully copy the letters on the typed ones but was only able to replicate the cursive ones by doing bouncy up-and-down wavy lines that (I hoped) would be intelligible to readers, somehow.
Birds are hurling themselves at each other in a frantic ritual of procreation. The jasmine is erupting in voluptuous wafts of heady scent, sending out trailers of greenery to grasp at every surface. Fish eagles drift overhead, taunting the resident force of crows who scramble the squadron to intercept the intruder. Doves coo and posture along tree branches, then make messy nests after the courtship deal is sealed. And the watsonias are painting impressionist splashes across the almost-alpine fields of the high Outeniquas.
Last year, I moved to the Garden Route so that I could find a place of quieter contemplation and endless beauty.
Then, this past week I found something greater – a place of stalwart, kind people who have determination and generosity of spirit, unequalled.
The fires that tore myriad paths through the coastal plain changed a place of unmatched beauty into an enormous ash pit. Homes obliterated, properties razed to the ground, families fleeing, pets gathered into arms and buckets and boxes, vital documents snatched from safe places, clothing stuffed into pillowcases, cars loaded up, buses sent in convoy from nearby municipalities, firefighters squashed onto flights from other metropolitan areas, trucks bearing drinkable water and babies’ nappies.
Tomorrow marks a year since I shoved the last of the blankets and sleeping bags into the car and prepared for the Groot Trek. Joziburg™ to the Garden Route.
It is the biggest step that I had ever made in my life. Uprooting myself from my hometown, ripping my teenager away from her friends, bundling the dog and the parrot into a combustion-engined metal box, and sending the whole lot of us hurtling down the N1 and beyond.
Many intriguing books or movies start the story in the middle. This allows the reader or viewer to ponder what came before. Why are the characters doing this? How did they get there? What will they do next? Does the past have a significant impact on their next move?
I’m here in the middle, making a new start. What came before is what brought me here. What brought me here is what affected me before. Life and endless circles. And endless running around.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve been slack. Four months of blog silence.
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.