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.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In homage to solitary walks

Walking alone is like sitting between the cellos in a symphony orchestra. It’s like cooking with the stew in the pot, being inside the cloud that rains.
I love walking alone. There is a secret ravine on Table Mountain that harbours me on short afternoon walks and has a Verraux eagle that ignores me. A few days ago I was alone in a valley on top of the mountain in the middle of a city of 3.7 million people. Deep in this valley there was no sign of the city at all.
It felt as if I could hear every single thing. The darting song of every sunbird, the moist croaking of frogs, the sound of water flowing deep under a rock, the wind shaking the seed pods on the reed-like restios.
When I’m alone I take longer, see more. Stand at the edge of a pool reflecting the blue sky and watch the frogs go plop in the water, then stare at me with bulging eyes just above the surface, their legs hanging down like swimming paraplegics.
In the mouth of a cave I could feel the cool air on my cheek coming from deep inside it. Across the valley a waterfall made the sound of a distant car crunching on gravel.
When I’m walking alone I feel like the first person and like the last person.
I love walking alone.