I’ve spent the past two days feeling the biggest love. Now I’ll try to share it.
The love feeling is so large that I don’t know where to start to spread it. Like mulch. So, obviously, I will start at the end.
Me and Lucille (by now you know that she is my Grand Old Lady of The Road) crested the rise just near Grootbos, but even closer to midnight.
The half-moon that had blessed the blissed at Greenpop’s Reforest Fest at Platbos now hung over Walker Bay before me. The supreme blackness and my headlight beam of just seconds before was replaced by a shimmering silver path on the sea. It was a sight that simply served to send my spirits soaring even higher, if that were possible.
It was. I stopped Lucille. I looked. My heart sang. It sang of one of the most beautiful days of my life. I expelled a frighteningly discordant and quite primal whoop, not a thing of beauty at all but one that yelled of a man set free of the chains of ordinariness. I was alone. And it was mine. I was heading home to my bed.
I left my heart somewhere among the good and happy and carefree people who had planted three thousand trees on the edge of Africa’s southernmost indigenous forest. And my sole remained in the rich and reddy-brown earth which would help those trees grow. I have never had a problem distancing myself from a crowd. But I was already missing the three hundred-odd and somewhat odd people who had gathered for “Friends Fest”, truly a union of friends who had never really been strangers but were now forever unified in the spirit of nursing the planet. And their own souls. And those of each and all of us.
Lucille and I headed out of Stanford towards Montagu. I had heard that Montagu was “the best-preserved Victorian village in the Western Cape”, my home village of Stanford listed a mere third.
I had to see this for myself. Cue a “Hatman and Lucille Roadtrip”. But we never got there. Actually, we did. Eventually. For a whole, wholly unpleasant 90 minutes. I really tried. I tried to find accommodation. But there was something that just didn’t work for me. What really didn’t work was when I was subjected to a tannie (elderly Afrikaans woman) behind reception at one of the joints slagging off the “country house” next-door and saying it was awful and that I should book into her place.
No. This wouldn’t do. I had just spent two days in the zow-wow zen gardens of a tranquil retreat in McGregor and this vrou was dissing her neighbours and harshing my Temenos mellow. I gave Mrs Reception a smile radiating with the karma of forgiveness, with only one corner of my mouth slightly curled in utter contempt, and gunned old Lucille back to McGregor.
Out of The Hat column, Stanford River Talk, May 2013.
I can see it now.
Queen Victoria Street, Saturday morning… people milling about at the morning market, Brydon’s lemon tart in one hand, Elsa’s mozzarella in the other, and complaining in a genteel and socially decorous manner about what happened to Tracy’s trees and the fact that the Municipality sat fatly by and did diddly-very-squat about it.
Then a hush falls over the small gathering. A lemon tart makes a ka-plop as it falls, lemony side-down of course, on cold, hard concrete. A Yorkshire Terrier squeaks as the weight of a Stanford Info leaflet drifts gently past its ear.
Many faces all turn sharply in one direction and reflect absolute horror. Well, OK, not horror… more a face-mash of wonder and consternation, lightly garnished with escalating anxiety.
Stanford’s children, practically all of them and from every corner of the village, are coming down Queen Victoria Street. And not just strolling, as they usually do in that somewhat directionless we’re-not-quite-sure-where-we’re-going-but-we-are sure-we’re going-to-have-fun way that Stanford’s children appear to have perfected. No. Not at all. Not today.
When I was young, my father would often pack us all into the Ford Cortina (with round rear lights and tailfins) on a Sunday. And we would head for the ocean. Nobody had picked up on my astigmatism then and I would lie like a descaled and reddened crocodile in rock pools, with my begoggled eyes slightly submerged and, sight magnified by the refraction of sunlight on the water’s surface, watch the tiny fish flit about and the crabs beady-eye me from their shadowed nooks. Boy in a bubble. I wear glasses now. But no roadtrip in Lucille is complete without a snuffle around South Africa’s magnificent coastline. To submerge myself in the sights and sounds and sand and salt. And, while seagulls skirl overhead, to lie meditatively in rock pools. On my back. Like a seal. And drift off… and be washed away. And washed.
Children and I are on the same wavelength. I adore them. They tend to love my company. We play. The child is strong within me. None more so than an adorable pair who are the children of a friend.
These girls, my “Gargoyles”, and I went to Platbos Forest the other day so that I could take some photographs of them for a project I’m working on. I want to produce a set of three images for a conceptual artwork which might illustrate the spiritual path of children.
R & S have walked a very difficult path without their father. I imagine it has been both heartbreaking and strange. And the strangeness was there when we entered Platbos Forest for the photo-shoot.
My “Out of The Hat” column, first published in Stanford River Talk, the quite extraordinary little local newspaper that serves (and I mean serves) my village – April, 2013.
I STEP out of the shower I share with large frogs, even bigger spiders, any size and number of exquisitely hand-painted moths and and am immediately enveloped by the heat once more.
Sipping the dark, bitter remnants of last night’s sweet, black tea, I feel the mountain-dew breeze diffusing through the fly-defying mesh of the screen door and on to my chest, prickling my still-damp skin with it’s early autumn cool-creep.
The vista from my front door is the same, as always. In that is is constantly changing. The aimlessly scudding clouds, the groping, gripping mist and the love of the light all conspire to create new mountain edges, resketching a familiar landscape in my mind. Doves clatter inconsiderately through the leaves into the tree, just outside my wonky gate, where they have chicks to feed.
MANY people walk the cliffpath, hanging and tilting over the ocean, in Hermanus, South Africa. They walk their children, they walk their dogs and they walk themselves, stopping for picnics – and stopping to gaze over the sea, perhaps hoping to glimpse the whales that come to raise their young in Walker Bay. It is beautiful. But how many stop to look at the light in its myriad refractions as it slants through the milkwoods? How many see the webs of intrigue, the mind-boggling array of colours, all painted by nature? How many feel the spirituality of this blessed place?
The Girl had spent much of the day with friends at the tidal pool, dolphining in the cool waters, espying salmon-pink, grasping anemone and tiny silvery fish as they darted among the rocks.
When dusk closed in and it was time to return home, she walked along the promenade wall, her salty skin shivering slightly in the evening bite. She felt alive and on top of her world.
She was so happy that she felt she could fly.
But, although she had, just that afternoon, inhabited the water world of fish, she knew sadly that the vast air arena of the birds was beyond her reach…
But wait. Was it? As a loftily-kicked football fell back to earth, a dragonfly magically appeared before her and seemed to beckon her to reach higher… to fly.
But, as she dared to dream, the dragonfly wheeled and soared almost out of sight. Out of reach.
“Come down, Dragonfly,” called The Girl. “Come back. Please show me your way to be free!”
Lights flickered on along the promenade as the sun sank steeply below the horizon. She was out late and he mother would have begun to worry. And she was cold. But… what was this?
The Dragonfly had returned. Wings whispering on the evening breeze, he appeared to be encouraging her to follow him, to gather her belief and stretch her wings. And to fly.
So she did.
Pictures: Hatman Photography
The Girl flew. And, as her dragonfly friend dipped away across the waves, she soared. And soared.
She flew so high that it became possible in her mind to reach out and touch the Moon.
* This is my interpretation of an experience I had with part of a series of sculptures created by Marieke Prinsloo Rowe on the promenade at Sea Point, Cape Town. To enjoy the full story behind Marieke’s beautiful work, fly over to her Walking The Road website.
Thank you, Marieke. For inspiring children to dream.