Friday, December 23, 2011

Chappies espresso

Sunset on Chappies. Far below, Chapmans Peak Drive is Sunset Boulevard, full of cars, picnic baskets and champagne glasses. Here, on the contour path high up on the mountain, the fragrance of an espresso slowly percolating wafts passed us. I'm with my sister Marikie and her son Marko, a young adventurer with a special talent for making espressos.
Sunset, fresh coffee, happy Christmas.
A mountain for champagne, for coffee and streams running with fresh rain.
Marko the espresso king with his mom Marikie.

Golden light, golden rock.

High on Chapmans Peak it's just us and the watsonias.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Small miracles

Agapanthus with diamond and papyrus.

Small miracles on a rainy afternoon at Kirstenbosch. 

A spotted eagle owl sits in pouring rain in a flower bed right next to the path. 

My friend Fran shows me the secret room inside the heart of the giant ficus, a hollow big enough to sit in. And then she hugs the tree.

It’s cold, it’s wet, but it’s a small, perfect afternoon.

Spotted eagle owl blurred in the rain.
Pincushion's indigenous xmas wrapping.
Fran in the secret room of the ficus.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Walking in moonlight

Tonight the moon rolled over the mountain like a battered old tin plate with dented edges. Two days before full moon.

Watsonias swayed in the howling southeaster and danced across my camera lens.

Just me and my moon shadow on the mountain. No-one else.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One mountain, many lives

Her name is Shahnaaz and she’s a healer. We met this afternoon over a bright pink cloth on a saint’s grave on Table Mountain.

I was walking past the mosque on Signal Hill and Shahnaaz was about to enter the mosque with her family. I asked her about the pink cloth, which had not been on the saint’s grave a few days before. The graves are called kramats and there are about 6 or 8 of them around the mosque.

She explained to me that making an offering to the saint buried there could include placing a new cloth, called a chadar, on the grave. “There are many layers of cloth on top of the grave, placed there over a long time by many people.”

Then Shahnaaz told me that she was there to make a special offering to the saint under the pink cloth. He had been a healer and so was she, offering reiki and reflexology and all kinds of other alternative treatments.
She had fasted for two days and now, as the sun set, was about to break her fast with some dates and nuts.
Shahnaaz, the healer about to break her fast.
I said goodbye to Shahnaaz and then noticed a group of cyclists who had met in front of another kramat. One of them leant his bicycle against the grave. “Um, this is a sacred spot,” I said without thinking. “Oh it’s just a dead person,” the man said. One mountain, many lives.
Rumours of rain. When a cloud hangs over Lion's Head like a lacy Catholic mantilla veil, it will rain tomorrow. Really.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

White in the forest

Forests are not only green. There are thousands of shades of white. Bark white, lichen white, fresh petal white, dried petal white, white of seed, rushing water white. Light reflecting on waterfall white. White of clouds. Silver tree's cracked white trunk.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fool moon

Lion's Head adrift in fog.

You won't believe it, but it happened again. I sped out of the house early this morning to go and see the full moon set. But when I got to Kloofnek the whole full moon extravaganza was hidden behind a thick blanket of mist. This is exactly what happened a month ago when I went looking for the full moon. (See previous blog)

However, Table Mountain being Table Mountain, it had a surprise parcel of gifts hidden behind its back, as usual. 

Confetti Alley
 Don't for a moment think wet air dampens the spirits of the birds and the beetles. Slangolie Ravine, a deep gorge above Camps Bay, was like an echo chamber of birdsong. Red-winged starlings, Cape sugarbirds and orangebreasted sunbirds screeched, whistled and sang full throttle. Chunky black beetles whirred along like jolly little helicopters. Even the sound of the waves are amplified in the gorge and it's easy to believe that no world exists outside these walls of rock. The steps going up to Slangolie are covered in buchu sprinkled with white flowers and if you crush the leaves the buchu scent sticks to your fingers. And all the time the mist moved; then closer to the mountain, then back to the ocean - like a restless sleeper wrestling with his blankets.

I had to try and capture the beauty of this misty spring morning with my iPhone, because Speedy had left her camera's memory card behind when she sped out of the house. The pics aren't bad for a cellphone, I'm sure you'll agree.

So I've been fooled by the moon again. But just wait, another full moon will come around in a month's time and then - surely - I will see it set.

The pipe track in the mist.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missing the moon

We had an early morning date with the full moon. It was meant to set just before 7, so Jan and I took our tea and rusks and went to find a spot on the spine of Signal Hill. You could say we had booked  the best seat in the house. In the west, the full gold moon would sink into the ocean, while in the east the red new sun would rise. 
But it was not to be. Signal Hill was covered in thick mist. Instead of the full moon extravaganza, we had the morning of crystals. 
The first watsonia of summer and the blue babianas flowering along the path were splashed in droplets. The mosque was in misty soft focus and the silk on the kramats of Islam's holy men sank into a deeper, wet colour.
No full moon, but diamonds everywhere.

Kramat at the mosque on Signal Hill.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Forester's child

My father was a forester and my grandfather was a forester. I was thinking about them yesterday while I was walking in Newslands Forest after the rain. 

I love everything about the forest. The way the green swallows you, the leafy softness, the smell of pine and wet earth. All that makes me feel small, as if I’m walking beside my father and my grandfather, both long gone. 
Mossy bark blurs in soft light.

Yesterday afternoon the forest hovered just there, between the rain and a clearing in the sky. The pine trees had wet bark like dark elephant skin and a single red leaf twirled in a secret current of air, like a ruby pendant in the green.

In the forest I love walking, just walking, without plan or path. As a path appears my feet follow it, or not. I like getting lost this way, twisting and turning deeper into the forest, taking faint little paths disappearing into knee-high ferns. Sometimes I let myself go into darkness, where the path disappears into a tunnel between low-hanging branches.

And then, a clearing. The ruins of the woodcutter’s cottage in Newslands Forest has clover growing out of old stone walls and mossy rocks scattered around spaces that were once rooms.  The oaks have crisp and fresh new leaves that have dropped like green flyers after the rain and wind, giving notice of spring.

On my way back wood smoke drifts on the cool evening air. It’s a fragrance made from the warmth of a room, a cooked supper and soft light.  Home of a forester’s child.
Swaying strelitzias at dusk.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mad with love

Gifkool, snotroos, kelkiewyn.
Piempiempie, bobbejaantjie, ink-tulp.
Kinkelbossie, skilpadblom, pienk lewertjies.

Read it aloud, no, sing it aloud.

Now try this: spiloxene serrata, moraea tripetala, nemesia versicolor.

I’ll stop right there. The Latin just doesn’t do it.

The poem at the top of this blog, that love song, that ode, is a list of Afrikaans names for spring flowers on the index page of the West Coast wildflower guide. You could just recite all the names and send it to Radio Sonder Grense as a poetry reading. 
Your blogger hard at work, jumping for joy.

On the last Sunday of every August we have a date with the piempiempies, surings, froetangs and tamaraks. It’s a secret route on a non-disclosed section of the West Coast, a spring paradise. Secret, because a small part of it crosses private land and in spite of my heart-rendered letter to the German land-owner, he refused permission for us to cross his property. So we quietly cross his land and tell no-one.

For the last ten years it has never rained on the last Sunday of August and this Sunday, true to form, dawned sunny and peachy. We walked with the ocean at our right shoulder, facing the flowers as they turn towards the sun. We threaded in and out from the beach to the veld to sandy jeep tracks that hug the coast. Then we found a green meadow dotted with tiny flowers, where we ate our early lunch and drank tea. Shortly after, we stopped again in a field of daisies that faded like candy from pink to yellow and drank more tea. We passed tortoises chewing on surings and picked up tortoise shells and porcupine quills and a beautiful zen stone.

We found a glossy black mole snake in the dunes that had just swallowed a mole and looked immobile and vulnerable and very full. We ended our walk along a long wide beach where the sea turned silver in the late afternoon sun.

My friend Heidi sent me this quote: A flower is a leaf mad with love. Our West Coast meander is a walk mad with flowers. It is our happy walk.